While most recruits are currently considering Stanford versus rival recruiting competitors in the abstract, several blue chips have already made unofficial visits to the Cardinal campus to size up The Farm. Stanford in fact landed their first commitment of this class on the heels of an unofficial visit by defensive line standout Matt Kopa. Such positive impressions from a Northern California kid like Kopa were not unexpected; however it is a hit-or-miss proposition for someone from the Midwest who comes to Stanford for his first ever look at the school and its surroundings.
We remember last year the story of 2004 Minnesota recruit Jerod Arlich, who held skepticism about that crazed and remote West Coast world he might find at Stanford. Only on his official visit in January, just a few weeks before Signing Day, did he find out how he would fit in with The Farm. The Cardinal received their first visit from a Gopher State standout in this 2005 class from Joey Hiben two weekends ago, and he tells The Bootleg all about how he now views Stanford as a college option.
First, let's give a little background. Hiben played tight end and defensive end for Waconia High School last fall. While he put up bigger numbers on defense, with 43 tackles and five sacks, he was statistically speaking as good a tight end as you could expect for a run-dominated offense like that of the Wildcats. He only caught nine balls his junior year, but he made them count with an eye-popping average of nearly 28 yards per reception including three touchdowns. Running a 4.7 40 at 6'4" and 227 pounds, the Chaska (Minn.) two-way standout recognizes that his speed has been his greatest weapon on both sides of the ball.
"I think my assets on offense are how I can make some big plays - how my speed lets me get open - but also I can really block quite well," the mobile Minnesota athlete describes. "On defense it's my speed of pursuit. I can get into the backfield quickly, and I can really track down guys well from behind."
Hiben might find himself being used in a wide variety of roles for Waconia High School next year, including punting duties on special teams and some middle linebacker on defense ("because teams would run away from me at defensive end last year"). On offense he is gearing up for some glory time in the backfield. Practices will determine whether he fits in as a tailback or fullback, but the bottom line for the contact-hungry competitor is his chance to carry the rock up the middle.
"I think it would be awesome to get up to full speed before hitting the hole and just plow into people," the jumbo athlete gleefully ruminates.
If you like a little more beef on your prospective TE/DE, have no worries. Hiben is currently "light" at his 227-pound weight while he runs track but will play between 235 and 240 pounds come football season. Track has his full attention right now, though, and with just cause. As a sophomore last year, Hiben placed fourth in the state in the 110m high hurdles with a 14.73 FAT (fully automated timing) showing. Put in perspective, that electronic time would rank in the top 10 in the state of California thus far in 2004.
He has untapped potential in other events as well. Just the other week he recorded a 39' 2 3/4" triple jump in his first ever attempt in the event. After "one good day of practice" prior to that same meet, he threw the shotput a quarter-inch shy of 52' and broke the school record by two feet.
That gives you a glimpse into the type of athlete we are considering. It should come as no surprise, then, that Hiben holds offers from seven schools to date. Stanford, Colorado, Purdue, Missouri, Northwestern, Texas Tech and Boston College have all promised scholarships to the Waconia tight end, with plenty more suitors including Arkansas and Notre Dame giving chase as well.
Hiben took a visit to the South Bend campus in April and was floored, despite the lack of any offer from the Irish. For a Midwest kid to so publicly professed his love for Notre Dame like Hiben did, you might shut the door on Stanford's recruiting prospects. But it was just one week later that he took an unofficial trip to Palo Alto and had a chance to stack up the perennial recruiting rivals.
"Stanford is definitely on top - you can say that," the prized tight end recruit reports. "It was really different. I wasn't sure how a Minnesota kid would fit in, but I liked everything I saw."
"I kind of like the balance between the academics and athletics at Stanford," Hiben continues. "And Coach Teevens is just an excellent guy. We had quite a few excellent conversations. All the coaches were very nice."
The wildly successful Stanford swing may have given the Cardinal a nice position now, but this recruitment has some distance to go. Hiben is keeping his options wide open at this point and will undoubtedly draw yet more college choices at his fingers by the end of this May evaluation period. After this month closes, he says he would like to start narrowing to start winnowing his school list.
"It would be nice to have a decision before my senior season," the Minnesotan muses. "But I honestly have no idea if that's possible. I really don't know what is going to happen or when. I guess we'll find out."
The stellar student-athlete is currently ranked by MinnesotaPreps as the #2 recruit in the state, and he has credentials in the classroom to match his athletic accolades. Hiben holds a 3.7 GPA at Waconia (four-point scale) and has already scored an 1120 on the SAT. He says he plans on retaking the standardized test to lift the score "a little higher."
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