ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay graded Gophers defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman as a potential third-round NFL pick heading into the season. But in McShay’s most recent NFL prospect rankings, Hageman ranks No. 22 overall, meaning late first round.
“He’s a beast, man,” McShay said in a conference call this week. “I think overall, he’s a player that continues to improve. He’s an excellent combination of height, weight, speed and athleticism. He’s almost 6-6, 310 pounds — in that range — and he moves really well.”
Hageman had six sacks and 7½ tackles for a loss last season as a junior. He contemplated leaving for the NFL but returned this year, and that could eventually pay dividends.
Hageman has only two sacks in eight games, but he ranks among the Big Ten leaders with 8½ tackles for a loss. He also has an interception, six pass breakups, and two blocked kicks.
“He’s smart in that he knows if he’s not going to get home as a pass rusher, he starts to kind of get his eyes on the quarterback,” McShay said. “He shuffles his feet, gets ready, and when he sees the trigger start to get pulled by the quarterback, he gets those big paws up, and winds up doing a really good job batting down balls, or getting in the quarterback’s line of sight.”
Recruited as a tight end out of Minneapolis Washburn, Hageman is in his third season playing defensive tackle and remains a work a progress. Much of his draft projection is based on raw potential.
On his latest Big Board rankings on ESPN.com, Mel Kiper Jr. lists Hageman as the 21st-best NFL draft prospect, and the third defensive tackle behind Notre Dame’s Louis Nix and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan.
Gophers offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover said the team won’t pick a starting quarterback between Mitch Leidner and Philip Nelson for Saturday’s game at Indiana until after Thursday’s practice.
“The big thing is Mitch started the last two weeks, but Philip knew he was going to play, and Philip came in and took great advantage of the reps he got,” Limegrover said. “So we may flip it, we may keep it exactly the same.
“I think everybody in the entire greater Twin Cities metropolitan area cares more about our starting quarterback than me and Coach [Jerry] Kill and [quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski]. We’ve got two good ones, and I think it’s unfair to say we’re going to go with one guy the whole way. We like them both.”
Gophers running back Rodrick Williams (turf toe) and cornerback Derrick Wells (shoulder) both participated in Wednesday’s practice. Acting head coach Tracy Claeys said their availability for Saturday’s game will be determined later in the week.