Thursday, January 23, 2014
Big Ten postseason player rankings: No. 18
By Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten postseason player rankings are based solely on performance during the previous year, not on future potential. The next man up always had the potential to be great, and he finally put it together last fall.
Ra'Shede Hageman was a disruptive force all season long for Minnesota.
Defensive tackle has recently been a position of strength in the Big Ten, but only one player makes our Top 25. He played a big role in Minnesota's 8-win campaign.
Making the case for Hageman: It can be hard to identify defensive tackles in the morass of bodies at the line of scrimmage, but you noticed Hageman every time he took the field for the Gophers. The big man contributed in several ways, from a field-goal block that led to a touchdown in the season opener to four drive-killing plays (interception, three pass breakups) in a breakthrough win at Northwestern.
Hageman's overall numbers are notable, as he led all Big Ten defensive tackles with 13 tackles for loss (ninth in the league overall) and finished second on the Gophers with nine passes defended. But the stats didn't illustrate his full impact on games. Opposing offenses had to identify No. 99 and try to avoid him, which proved to be challenging. Hageman had two or more tackles for loss in five games, including the Texas Bowl against Syracuse. His presence helped Minnesota finish fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (22.2 ppg) and first in red-zone defense.
At 6-foot-6 and approximately 315 pounds, Hageman has a unique frame and skills for an interior defensive lineman, and after elevating his game as a senior for the Gophers, he's poised for big things at the next level.