The Ra'Shede Hageman hype has just gone national.
CBSsports.com's Bruce Feldman has released his annual "Freaks List" for 2013 and has put Golden Gopher 6'6, 311 pound senior DT Ra'Shede Hageman at #2 (For the record, there is ZERO argument about who is #1). That's not #2 in the B1G or the Midwest or the North of non-ESS-EE-SEE country; that's #2 in all the land. As if expectations weren't high enough for his senior season, well, it appears the hype machine is going up to 11 for the guy Matt has dubbed O-Prime.
Gopher fans have known Hageman was a physical freak pretty much since he was a highly touted TE recruit out of Washburn, coming to campus in 2009 as a true freshman at an impressive 6'6 and 235 pounds. Hageman redshirted that year and somewhat surprisingly changed positions as the coaches moved him offense to defensive line. Considering Brewster was in charge this point, it left some to wonder just what he was doing with Minnesota's next great TE recruit. Turns out, this was one singular case where Brewster might have known what he was doing...or it was dumb luck. You decide. Shede played sparingly as a freshman defensive end, and by his sophomore season was moved inside by the new coaching staff as he was tipping the scales at over 290 pounds. He appeared in all 12 games in 2011 before starting all 13 games last season and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media. Hageman would likely have been a mid-round pick had he entered this year's draft (although looking at the combine-type numbers Feldman gives he may very well have rocketed up draft boards), but thank god he chose to return to school to become a more dominant player and help the Gophers win in 2013.
The physical tools have never been in question, but from what we saw and read from folks who covered him at spring ball, it seems that his motivation has ramped up to be better and more consistent. Of all the crazy combine numbers Feldman throws out in his column, the most encouraging thing for me was this:
His goals on the field for 2013: play with better pad level, play with more urgency off the ball and not take plays off.
Terms like "freak" or phrases like "he can be as good as he wants to be" are thrown around a lot these days, but those two absolutely apply to Hageman. He obviously has unbelivable physical tools, but now he's realized that just being physically gifted won't help you dominate football games. He knows he needs to put in the work in the offseason and every day in practice to be dominant on Saturday's (and perhaps eventually Sunday's), which is exciting for Gopher fans and scary as hell for every opponent on Minnesota's 2013 schedule. Ra'Shede absolutely has NFL 1st round pick ability, so all that's left is for him to put it together, dominate the B1G, and become the best defensive player the Gophers have had since Tyrone Carter.