Into Hibe(r)nation

When we last checked in with Waconia (Minn.) tight end recruit Joey Hiben, he had a top five favorites - truthfully, a most favored top three. Stanford stood among that hallowed trio but had time working against them. Early-to-mid October is when Hiben wanted to reach his college decision, if he could. How close is he now, and are the Card still alive?

In a nutshell, this was the dilemma for Stanford in their recruitment of Joey Hiben when we last reported on the 6'4" tight end.  The Waconia (Minn.) standout wanted to clear his plate of all recruiting burdens by this mid-October, so that he could concentrate on the tougher part of his high school team's football schedule.  The trouble for the Cardinal is that Hiben is retaking the SAT this Saturday to aid his admissions application.  The time lag for him to get that score, submit his application and hear back a decision would push him weeks past when his proclaimed college commitment deadline.  Absent a Stanford admittance, the Card would not yet be an option... and thus would be ostensibly eliminated from a mid-October decision.

But things don't always go according to play.  Hiben thought his high school team would cruise through the early "soft" part of their schedule before they would buckle down in October, yet they are struggling at 1-4.  He had hoped to have some conclusive thoughts about his favorite schools to allow a decision by now, but he instead admits that he is nowhere near a commitment today.

"I think I'm going to have to take [official] visits," Hiben allows.  "I wasn't able to get anywhere with these schools.  It's just too hard to decide right now.  I'm down to three - Stanford, Notre Dame and Purdue.  I just don't know where to go.  I'm at the point where I could feel good committing to any of the three, but I can't commit to Stanford right now.  I need to get admitted."

The timeframe that Hiben is imagining for his official visits would likely start in December.  No dates have yet been set, but he says that Notre Dame is pushing the first weekend of that month (12/3), when they hold their annual big banquet visit weekend.  A probable Stanford visit weekend could be January 7 or 14.  Regardless of those details, the immediate impact of this timeframe is that Hiben has ample time to improve his board scores and apply to for Stanford admission.  The heat is off, and that could put the Card once again on a level playing field with the Irish and Boilermakers.  To get there, though, the tight end recruit is looking to bump his SAT score by a non-trivial amount.

"With Stanford, I have the SAT this Saturday," he begins.  "With a score about 1200, I would feel good about my getting admitted to the school.  I scored a 1200 the first time.  80 points sounds like a lot, but I think I could do it."

Now that there will be a recruiting lull for Hiben and his final three schools until December, there is the matter of his senior season salvage.  Waconia was hoping to roll through the meeker start of their schedule in 2004 but instead have ridden a rocky road.

"After a few games, you'd think we could get things figured out," the frustrated senior says.  "Two weeks ago we played our best football so far this year against Delano.  They're the best team in our conference.  Last week we lost in overtime in a game we really should have won."

In the battle with the Delano Tigers, Hiben saw his team play tough for a half but faded in the final two quarters.  For that kind of game to be their "best football" of the season, you can imagine the disappointment of such a sour senior season.

"The only plus is that we can only go up from here," he optimistically notes.

On offense, Hiben has played both tight end and in the backfield.  In the season opener, he racked up 145 yards on nine carries and one reception, but the ball has scarcely touched his fingertips since.  One big problem is a sophomore quarterback and weak offensive line, which are combining for some bad brew.  The brightest moments in the last few games for Hiben have come on the other side of the ball, where he is playing defensive end.

"I had seven tackles in my last game," the versatile 235-pound athlete reports.  "But it's not just the tackles.  I'm doing well just taking up two gaps and getting to the quarterback.  I usually take out the C and D gaps.  I'm getting a lot of hurries and have had two sacks."

"It's been frustrating when teams run away from me," Hiben adds.  "But it means guys can make plays on the other side of the field."

Colleges sure have not run away from the Minnesota man, and before long we expect news of his official visit dates as well as his SAT retake score and admissions application progress.  Stay tuned to find out Stanford fares against the Hoosier State schools in this Midwest mêlée for the #10 ranked tight end in America.

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