Formerly an All American tight end coming out of Minneapolis Washburn High School in 2008, Ra’Shede Hageman is preparing for his senior season as one of the top defensive tackles in all of college football. This was likely not the path that Hageman had in mind when he committed to the Minnesota Gophers as one of the top tight ends in the country, but Hageman has flourished in his new role and looks to build on his success during his final campaign with the maroon and gold.
I was fortunate enough to see Hageman play once during his high school career—which happened by sheer accident—and within five minutes of watching him play tight end, you knew the kid filled the mold of what a tight end looked like at the division one level. Hageman had the rare combination of speed and pass catching ability at 6’6″ which made him an unmovable force for the Millers. I fully expected Hageman to be an all-conference tight end after watching that one game of his in person, but I certainly didn’t expect him to be playing on the defensive line for the Gophers.
When Hageman first came onto the scene with the Gophers, he moved around at a few different positions before finally settling in at defensive tackle. With his size and mobility, Hageman certainly can handle himself and be a dominant force on a defensive line that was in need of a dominant pass rusher from the interior. Hageman also possess good run support for the Gophers which has made him a coveted prospect for the NFL Draft in 2014. As a matter of fact, Hageman had considered declaring for the draft early this past winter, but decided to stay in school for his senior season. In response to this news, the entire Gophers’ program and fan base took a collective sigh of relief.
Hageman started all 13 games in 2012 at defensive tackle for the Gophers and recorded 35 tackles. He also recorded six sacks on the season which placed him second on the team and earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media. So what does Hageman have in store for his final season in the maroon and gold?
Well for starters, if he plans to be a high draft pick in the NFL Draft, he is going to need to continue to be a dominant pass rusher from the interior. With the increased attention that comes from being a productive player, Hageman is surely going to see more protection schemes and double teams that are catered to preventing him from getting to the quarterback or disrupting the run game. If his supporting cast can hold their own along the defensive line and become viable threats as well, Hageman may be poised for a stellar season.
I would be surprised if Hageman didn’t surpass his tackle and sack total from last season as I project him to garner at least 40 tackles and eight sacks which would be a great accomplishment for the defensive tackle. Hageman’s production from the interior could also help the Gophers’ defense rebound and grow in 2013 in the hopes that the team can take another step forward in head coach Jerry Kill’s third season at the helm.
For a recruited tight end that has ended up at defensive tackle, Hageman has carved out a nice career for himself in the maroon and gold. It will be fun to watch him for one last fall this season and hopefully his last year can be greeted with improved performances and higher expectations.