Who knows the most about a football player if not his coach? Inside Handoff reached out to the positional coaches of the top prospects before the 2014 NFL Draft. In the 40 days leading up to the first day of this year’s draft I will count down by sharing comments from these top players’ own coaches. Today I share Jeff Phelps’ view on Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.
Name: Ra’Shede Hageman
Weight: 311 lbs
Position: Defensive Tackle
Coach: Jeff Phelps
What are his three key strengths?
“One of his strength is actually his overall size. I’d also emphasize his speed and agility and finally his passion for the game.”
What does he still need to develop?
“He really only played defensive line for three years. He is really young as far as understanding the position and working on his skill set. Those are things that he’s been focused on and worked on. I think playing for an NFL team will benefit him to continue to build upon what he has been able to do for the last three years here with us.”
How would you summarize his personality?
“He’s a gentle giant. He’s a big man, but he’s kind at heart. He’s really great around kids, he did a youth camp here in Twin Cities, in the community that he grew up in and all those kids and people love him and that’s who he is. When he first got here there was definitely a wall around him and you had to earn his trust to get inside that wall. As he continued to develop the relationships we saw him open up and be a very polite, very cordial and a very unique, intelligent young man.”
What impressed you the most about him the first day you met him?
“Just his story! He’s got a great story, which is well publicized. He was a foster child and had to go through a lot of things, while growing up. It’s impressive that he still became so successful and graduated from the University of Minnesota despite all that he had to go through. No matter what happens, he has his degree in his hands and he is ready to move on to the next deal, whatever that might be. I think those things are often ignored; he is now a college graduate. For a young man like him with his background and what he had to endure it is huge. He could have made decisions to go the wrong way, but he saw the writing on the wall and made a commitment to himself and his family that he was going to be successful and become an NFL player. He’s positioned himself to do that now.”
Which was his best game?
“That’s a tough question. He had multiple big plays in just about every game. He did outstanding things for us. You look back at the beginning of last season where he helped us scoop and score after a blocked field goal. He blocked a couple of field goals. You think about the Northwestern game, where he batted down several balls and also intercepted one of those passes. There are so many different games that you could choose from. I think it would be hard to say which was his best game. Over the course of the season in each game he had several plays where he showed what he has. As he continues to develop he will be able to do these on a more consistent basis. If I had to choose I’d probably select the Northwestern game.”
What other position could he play?
“He could definitely play defensive end. He is fast and athletic enough to be out there. Teams that play in a 4-3 scheme would probably like to have him as a 3-technique defensive tackle, but teams that play 3-4 might like to move him out there to the defensive end position. Even in the 4-3 scheme we put him out there a couple of times at defensive end just to try to get some different matchups. The offensive tackles are not used to a 6’6” 310-lbs guy coming at them. It helped us to get away from some of the double teams that he faced inside.”
Which former or current NFL player would you compare him to?
“He talks a lot about Ndamokung Suh, he tries to mirror him as far as his playing ability, maybe not all the other things that kind of go with that, which can be a little bit controversial. He is also trying to be a hard-worker like J. J. Watt. The combination of those two is where he wants to see himself at. Obviously Suh is a big guy that can move around and run, while Watt overall is an all-around guy who is working hard.”
Other interviews of ‘The Coach’s View’ series can be found here.