Hiben Has Tough Decisions

Recruiting is seldom a simple matter. Take the case of Minnesota tight end Joey Hiben, who has come out twice unofficially already to visit Stanford and who puts the Cardinal among his top favorites. With a nice 2-0 start to the season, Stanford should be improving their stock with recruits, but other factors can conspire against the Card. In Hiben's case, there is a calendar for his decision that could be trouble...

One of the high profile names the Cardinal has been recruiting in this 2005 class is 6'4" 235-pound tight end Joey Hiben, currently ranked #9 in the nation at his position by TheInsiders.com.  The four-star athlete received an early rash of scholarship offers last winter and spring, and then his recruitment went a little quiet.  But with one big new offer hitting during the summer and now his senior year upon him, Hiben is feeling the pressure of some fast-approaching decisions to make.

The most interesting wrinkle going into the summer with Hiben's recruitment was the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.  He visited South Bend in the spring and came away most impressed, despite the fact that the staff did not extend him an offer.  Rather than eschew the Irish, the Waconia High School senior stayed in touch and kept them on his list.  Rather than take umbrage, he took the initiative to prove himself to the Notre Dame staff and attended one of their summer camp sessions.  Indeed, Hiben came out to camp at Stanford despite already having an offer in his pocket, simply because he wanted to demonstrate to the Cardinal coaches his intense interest.  You have to root for a kid who wants to do things the right way and handles his relationships with courting coaches with class and little ego.  Hiben was justly rewarded for his character as well as his athletic abilities when Notre Dame came through in August.

"That offer really helped," the Minnesota man maintains.  "I kind of always knew they would offer.  Now I can consider them as one of my top schools."

With that hurdle cleared, Hiben has himself in a position to close on his college commitment.  He has evaluated and visited his options and has recently narrowed his focus.

"I'm pretty much down to five total schools," Hiben declares.  "But three are at the top: Stanford, Notre Dame and PurdueIllinois and Minnesota are the other two.  I've been talking with my family the last several weeks, particularly about those top three.  I would within a few weeks to have a good idea where I'm going.  That depends on how hectic September gets.  It was tough in May with at least seven phone calls per night."

Previously the Waconia wonder described a desire to conclude his recruitment before his senior season started.  However, there is a little more to that aim than meets the eye.  In Hiben's estimation, his high school schedule will not hit the more formidable opponents until maybe mid-October.  As a competitor he will not quite write off the early foes as "cupcakes," but his concern of recruiting distractions is low for the first five or so games of the season.

"I'm not totally confident in making a decision right now," the recruit explains of his current dilemma.  "If I could do this without making official visits, that would be great.  But maybe I will need those visits.  I'm looking at everything right now.  Athletics: they're all great schools.  Academics: I'm even starting to look at majors - I want to study architecture.  I'm also looking at the coaching staffs."

"Distance is obviously a negative for Stanford," Hiben unsurprisingly says of the competition with his two Midwestern favorites.  "But California more than makes up for that."

The bigger issue for the Cardinal recruitment of the Minnesota athlete is the timing of his decision with respect to the admissions application process.  Hiben has the application in hand and has already pegged his letters of recommendation.  He says he is working on his written parts of the application, as well.  But time is working against him.

"If I committed to Stanford soon, it wouldn't be a sure thing.  That's a problem.  I'm going to retake the SAT and ACT in October," he tells us.  "I really like what I see at Stanford, but I know it will be really tough with admissions.  I'll still work on the application, though.  Better to be prepared."

In a nutshell, the Cardinal need Hiben to keep his recruitment open deep enough through the fall for his test scores to come back and complete his application.  If his desire to make a commitment by mid-October is firm, then you can expect to see the 6'4" athlete suit up somewhere in the state of Indiana next fall.

"I feel like if I commit to any of the three schools, it would be a great decision," he confidently claims.

Meanwhile, Hiben is off to a fast start for his senior season.  Though schools from coast to coast are recruiting him as a tight end, he has made his way into the Waconia backfield this fall.

"I've been on the head coach about playing at running back," he laughs.  "I do have the fastest 40 on the team (4.53), though, so it makes some sense.  I'll be a halfback in power situations and a tailback in the rest.  I may play some tight end, too."

Hiben racked up an eye-popping 28 yards per reception as a tight end in his junior season, but he'll be carrying the ball this fall to get him better involved in the offense.  In the 2004 season opener, he totaled an impressive 125 yards on nine carries.  Hiben scored touchdowns on runs of 74 and 22 yards, displaying his speed, power and open-field athleticism.  He also caught one pass that impressed as much as any of his runs, reaching back for a ball badly thrown behind him and then smashing through tacklers for 20 yards and a first down.

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