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October 04, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, October 4, 2013 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com Friday, October 4, 2013 -

ByZACH HELFAND
Daily Sports Editor
If there's one player to thank
for Minnesota's improvement
from Big Ten doormat to poten-
tial spoiler team, it's senior
defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hage-
man. Hageman is gregarious and
witty and at 6-foot-6, 311 pounds,
no one
would mis- B
take Hage-
man for a
doormat.fE
He's the
heart of
Minnesota's
interior defense, and likely its
best player. In five games this
year, Hageman has 20 tack-
les (including a team-best 5.5
for loss), one sack and three
pass breakups. He also has two
blocked kicks.
CBS Sports listed Hageman
No. 2 on its "Freak List: The
20 craziest athletes in college
football," behind just Jadeveon
Clowney. The Michigan Daily sat
down with Hageman at Big Ten
Media Days.
The Michigan Daily: Minne-
sota has been one of the more
improved teams in the confer-
ence. How can you get the defen-
sive line to continue to gain
confidence?
Ra'Shede Hageman: We have
so many playmakers that have to
get comfortable to play on the big
stage. I feel like sometimes even
in practice, we're so competitive
we're damn near fist fighting
with each other because we want
to do good. So just the simple fact
that the D-line kind of gained
that comfort level to make plays.
TMD: What's the biggest
change you've seen from when
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill first

up winning the Jug, which I'm
confident we are, it means a lot,
being on TV, being on camera.
Come on. Girls are looking at
you. You know the deal.
TMD: When were you edu-
cated about the history of that
trophy?
RH: The funny part, when I
was a freshman and a sopho-
more, I really didn't - I wouldn't
say I really didn't care, but I
wasn't educated about the tro-
phy game. And just the fact that
I'm a senior, it just means the
most to be making a statement.
You know you've got the alumni
watching, and the fans watching,
it's definitely a big statement to
win trophy games. And winning
the Brown Jug - I've never seen
it before. I've never touched it.
And I don't want to go down as
somebody who didn't get to win
the Jug."
TMD: Do you know the story
now, about how it started?
RH: Yeah, Michigan left the
Jug at Minnesota, and they
wanted it back. But they had to
win it back. So if I get Jug, I'm
definitely going to drink out of it.
Why not? It's a jug. ButI definite-
ly know the history about that.
Makes me even more motivated
to win that.
TMD: Do you have to teach
the freshmen about that?
RH: Always, man. It's always
the freshmen. They're definitely
the knuckleheads of the family.
But educating them about the
trophy games, especially Michi-
gan, hopefully it'll motivate
them to win and play that much
better, because that's how much
it means to us.
TMD: What would you drink
out of it?
RH: Off the record? [laughs]
Water. Gatorade.

ERIN KIRKLAND/Daily
Ra'Shede Hageman was listed No. 2 on CBS Sports' "Freak List: The 20 craziest athletes in college football," behind only South Carolina lineman Jadeveon Clowney.

arrived?
RH: Just everything. It comes
down to school, just the athleti-
cism, the recruits he's recruited.
Coach Kill came here and made
a statement. He has what I call
that tough love. And some people
didn't get with it, but the people
that wanted to win are going to
get with it. Because at the end of
the day, you can say this or say
that to make people better, but at
the end of the day the tough love
is always the backbone to a good
program. And coach Kill came
in and made that statement, and

I feel like we definitely have
improvement.
TMD: A lot of people consider
you the best defensive tackle in
the Big Ten. What do you think?
RH: I don't think I'm the best,
you could ask coaches. I'm my
worst critic. In order to be the
best you have to be hard on your-
self. That's how I feel. So either
I'm always bugging my coach,
coach Phelps, bugging coach
Kline, coach Clay - sometimes
I'm even bugging coach Kill
abouthow Ican bebetter. It's like
D-tackle is so hard to make plays.

It's really about staying in your
gap. But I want to make plays as
a D-tackle. It's so hard to make
sacks as a D-tackle. And the fact
that I had six last year, I'm trying
to beat that. I'm trying to be com-
petitive against myself and other
opponents. So I feel like the fact
that I did OK last year was OK,
but I'm definitely trying to stand
out. I feel like this year is going
to be scary. That's how I put it,
it's going to be scary this year,
because I'm so comfortable with
playing D-line, D-tackle, I'm just
ready to make plays and just kind

of do alot of damage.
TMD: Michigan has won the
past five games for the Little
Brown Jug. What would it mean
to end that streak?
RH: The fact that we play
Michigan at Michigan, win the
Brown Jug and have everyone at
Michigan silenced, that's price-
less, dog. I'm smiling and cheesi-
ng right now, but that's priceless.
That means a lot to me as a senior,
but you know any trophy game is
just goose bumps. But the hard
thing is is getting the whole
team motivated. But if we do end

Wht to Watch
or: Waterloo
By GREG GARNO Michigan's freshmen
Daily Sports Writer
Name Position S/C Ht./Wt.
1. How well will the Evan Allen....................................... F R 5-foot-11/195
defense mesh? JT Compher .............F R 5-foot-11/185
Alex Kile ............... F L 6-foot-0/190
This unit is undoubtedly the .
Michigan hockey team's biggest Kevin Lohan ................................... F R 6-foot-5/202
question mark before the season Tyler Motte .................................... F L 5-foot-10/185
begins, and the best indicator of Max Shuart .................................... F L 6-foot-1/185
how well it performs will be how Nolan de Jong .............................. D L 6-foot-2/183
prepared senior defenseman Michael Downing ........................ D L 6-foot-2/180
Mac Bennett is. Spencer Hyman ..........................D R 5-foot-10/185
Bennett has the most experi- Zach Nagelvoort .......................... G L 6-foot-2/208
ence of any defensemen after
playing in the top four all last
year, and he'll return as the lead- for testing the pairings Sunday, sign for the duration of the sea-
er this season. But who fills in though, as No. 4 Boston Col- son. Last year, Michigan relied
behind and alongside him will be lege visits Yost Ice Arena on on Trouba during the power play,
scrutinized Sunday. Thursday. Waterloo (Ont.) won't but how will it respond without
Michigan coach Red Beren- compare to the offenses the Wol- him?
son will likely pair younger verines will see later in the sea-
defensemen with Bennett and son, but it should be a chance to 3. Just how good is the
other experienced players to see how well the defense works offense?
bring them up to speed quickly. together.
Freshman Michael Downing "I really like our defense," When you consider the
has drawn high praise from the Bennett said. "I know that was amount of talent that steps in
coaching staff early on, as has supposed to be our weak point this year, and combine it with the
freshman Nolan de Jong. on the team, but I don't see it as amount of talent that left, there's
Both are experienced fol- a weak point. I think we're right not much to question up front.
lowing extensive time in junior where we need to be." Sophomores Andrew Copp
hockey but come in a bit weaker and Boo Nieves return as hard-
and lighter than the coaching 2. Who will fill in on spe- working centers and should
staff would have liked. Neither cial teams? only benefit from more time
has experience at the collegiate spent alongside junior forward
level, but former defenseman The only unit that possibly Alex Guptill and senior forward
Jacob Trouba is proof that it lost more experience than the Derek DeBlois.
doesn't take long to adjust. defense was the special teams. But can Copp and Nieves avoid
"Everything just seems to be A.J. Treais, Lee Moffie, Kevin a sophomore slump and continue
clicking more and more," Ben- Lynch, Jon Merrill and Trouba to play at a high level? Can Gup-
nett said. "Passes are getting a all saw considerable time last till be the scorer he's counted on
little bit better, guys are know- year on the penalty kill and to be?
ing where to go in the defensive power play but are gone now. After last year's anemic start
zone. Everything has just been Only Bennett returns with more and unexpected strong finish, it
rolling smoothly." experience on special teams. begs the question: Which unit
Senior Kevin Clare returns If the penalty kill can hold will show up?
after missing a majority of last Waterloo without goals, then it It will be tough to answer
season, but he still has the talent could be a sign of things to come. every question if Berenson
to be as good as anyone. How he Look for players like Copp or experiments with lines for 60
pairs up with de Jong or Down- Downing to see time early. minutes, but look to see if the
ing will make a big difference The power play, however, will Wolverines can rack up shots. It
how far the team goes this sea- take time to develop. Any offen- will be a good sign of how well
son. sive production with an extra they do with the puck. Look for
There won't be much time man should be seen as a good freshmen JT Compher, Evan

PATRICK BARRON/Daily
Senior defenseman Mac Bennett returns as a captain and the leader of Michigan's unproven defense this season.

Allen and Tyler Motte to fill in
lines and make an impact, too.
4. Can Racine continue his
hot streak from last year?
Sophomore goalie Steve
Racine enters this season as the
No. 1 netminder, but is he ready
for the long haul?
The first game is by no means
a make-or-break moment, but it
will be easy to see if everything
has fallen into place early on.
What should you look for early
on then?
"I don't want to see any bad
goals," Berenson said. "I want to
see him play the puck, minimize
rebounds and stop the shots he's
capable of stopping."
Racine has had a full sum-
mer to practice in his new role,
which should be important for
his confidence. If he can bail out
the defense, he'll not only give
himself more confidence, but it
should filter down to the defense.

5. Is the team chemistry
stronger?
Last Friday, the Wolverines
took the day off, for what is likely
a program first: to play paintball.
It has little to do with hockey, of
course, and more to do with team
bonding.
Bennett, DeBlois and Copp,
in an effort to avoid a repeat of
last year, have organized more
activities as a way to combat
last year's issue. Throughout
last season, team chemistry was
poor and contributed to the early
struggles, according to Berenson
and players.
"I think there's a better atti-
tude in that locker room," Beren-
son said. "I think they can't wait
to play, and they're more worried
about doing the right thing this
year."
Added Berenson: "Everyone
wants to be a little bit closer than
last year, and I think we've done

a good job of that so far."
Part of that is due to the differ-
ent leadership in place from last
year. Last year, Berenson select-
ed a fourth captain, former for-
ward Kevin Lynch, a few weeks
into the season, a rare event in
program history. This year's trio
of captains is more vocal and
already more involved in getting
the team together.
There's a different feel now.
Captains organized shootouts;
skaters ran into boards to dis-
tract their teammates during
interviews with reporters; and
everybody suffers through con-
ditioning workouts now.
But what will it take to show
the improvement?
"I'd like to see our team
establish some type of identity,"
Berenson said. "Our team was
not as ready to play and win (last
year) as it is this year.
"This team's got a lot more
humility right now. I think
they're going to play hard."

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