Minnesota has a chance to make some noise this week, when it welcomes Nebraska for a nationally televised game Saturday, and if the Golden Gophers are going to pull the upset, they will need a big game from senior defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman.
Hageman recently was named the No. 5 senior prospect in the nation by NFL Media draft analyst Gil Brandt. Hageman told btn.com's Tom Dienhart that although he doesn't watch many NFL games, he tries to pattern his game after the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh and the Houston Texans' J.J. Watt. He called Suh "a beast" and noted that "Watt is so quick."
Hageman (6-foot-6, 311 pounds) also said the main reason he didn't turn pro after last season was that he wanted to get his degree. He also admitted he had more to learn about playing the position. "I want to be fundamentally sound before I head to the next level," he said.
Hageman was a national recruit as a 250-pound tight end out of high school in Minneapolis, and he switched to the defensive line while redshirting as a freshman in 2009. He is stout against the run and also possesses some pass-rushing skills. He was second on the team and seventh in the Big Ten with six sacks last season. This season, Hageman has 24 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, six pass breakups and two blocked kicks (a field goal and an extra point).
Hageman will be going against a recently revamped Nebraska offensive line Saturday (the game kicks off at noon ET on ESPN). The Huskers lost senior guard Spencer Long, their best lineman, to a knee injury in their most recent game, and he is expected to miss the rest of the season. A victory makes Minnesota bowl-eligible and would give them a legitimate shot at a berth in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl, which would be the Gophers' first post-December bowl since the 1961 season.