Minnesota senior defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman doesn't think all that much of Michigan, the Golden Gophers' opponent this week.
"Just the fact they almost lost to Akron, they're human," he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "You know what I mean? Everybody praises them to be elite, and I just feel like they're a regular football team."
Saturday's game gives Hageman another chance to prove he's not a regular defensive tackle. Hageman (6-foot-6, 311 pounds) is a freakish athlete for his size. He has a 36-inch vertical leap, he can bench-press 465 pounds and he has been clocked as quick as 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Hageman was a national recruit as a tight end out of high school in Minneapolis and, after switching to the defensive line while redshirting as a freshman in 2009, he has made noticeable progress each season. He has gained almost 60 pounds while at Minnesota. He is stout against the run and also has some pass-rushing skills -- he was second on the team and seventh in the Big Ten with six sacks last season. He has 20 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and one sack this season.
Still, there are consistency and technique issues (a general complaint is he plays way too high), and speculation as to where he ends up in the draft varies from first round ("Wow, what an athlete") to fourth round ("For a guy that athletic, why isn't he more dominant?").
Saturday, he will be going against a Michigan offensive line that is in flux. The Wolverines have one of the best tackle duos in the nation in fifth-year seniors Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. But Michigan coaches have bemoaned the lack of running room in the middle of the line, and to that end, coach Brady Hoke hinted Wednesday that there will be two new starters on the interior. Sophomore center Jack Miller (6-4, 290) seems likely to be benched, with sophomore Graham Glasgow (6-6, 305) moving from guard to replace him. Replacing Glasgow at left guard will be sophomore Chris Bryant (6-4, 316).
Hoke said Glasgow is "a little bigger, a little rangier" than Miller.
"The weight and strength and all that are all positives, too," Hoke told reporters.
The first order of business for the interior linemen will be keeping Hageman out of the backfield. He had six tackles and a sack last season against the Wolverines.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has struggled dealing with pressure this season, tossing eight interceptions already, and Minnesota players -- who have forced seven turnovers this season -- have noticed.
"I think he kind of just panics a lot," Gophers free safety Cedric Thompson told the Star-Tribune. "I think that when he scrambles, he kind of just throws the ball."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.