We're one player away from the all important top 10 of our preseason countdown... This seems like the cruelest of all the spots to be on the list, but it's also just about the right spot for perhaps the name that will surprise the general public the most.
Every year there's that "breakout" player who comes out of nowhere and becomes a name to know and in 2012 that happened twice for the Gophers. We already hit on one of those on our list in offensive lineman Zac Epping, well, consider our No. 11 player the defensive version of Epping, only a completely different kind of athletic freak.
So, consider yourself shocked, or get ready to be educated about one of the hidden gems of the 2012 season. Hell, he was recently named the 2nd biggest "freak" in all of college football by Bruce Feldman of CBSsports.com - his secret could won't be kept too much longer.
No. 11: Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
2012 Stats/Honors: 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 1INT, 2 pass break ups - Honorable Mention all-Big Ten by media
What makes him worthy: Jerry Kill has had his share of pretty talented individuals on the defensive side of the ball and even he admits that Hageman may be the best athlete he's coached on the defensive line in his career. Kill's endorsement is good enough for me, but we can continue on with further proof.
We mentioned the fact that he recently was ranked as the 2nd biggest athletic freak in college football and for a good reason, the 6'6", 312lbs. dude was clocked at a 1.54 second 10 yard dash, can still do a 360 dunk, and has a 36 inch vertical.
If you watch any of the games from a season ago it's clear that he was a major concern of every offense he faced, routinely seeing double teams. He was 2nd on the team in sacks despite that fact and despite the fact that he was the only real threat on the defensive line. Hageman leads all returning defensive players in sacks entering 2013.
One could argue that without the likes of Jonathan Hankins, Kawann Short and Jordan Hill Hageman could've been a household name in the Big Ten by the end of last season. Expect that to be the case big time this year as the lightbulb has gone off in a major way and improvement can only happen after that.
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