Unlimited Potential

Chardon High School head coach Jim Dipofi believes that West Virginia got something of a hidden gem when longtime fan Joe Madsen committed to the Mountaineers.

"Number one, he is an athlete. He is not a typical lineman," said Dipofi of the player he termed ‘the best to ever play for me'. "He is a legitimate 4.9 [in the 40-yard dash] at 275 pounds. He can throw a football 50 yards easily, and catches the ball as well as anyone I have on my team, and we have some good skill position players. He is a shortstop in a tackle's body.

He will play at right tackle for us, but we do a lot of unbalancing on our line, so he will play on the left side some too. He could play tackle in college, but he could be a very good tight end, and I think he could be a very good defensive lineman also. West Virginia will have to make a decision as to where they want to play him."

With such athleticism and a wide range of skills, it has been tempting for Dipofi to play his star pupil at numerous spots and run the risk of burnout or overuse. He has resisted that urge, but noted with a laugh that it hasn't been easy.

"It's very tempting, but I'm not going to do it," he said of the thought of playing him at more than one position or moving him around. It hasn't hurt him playing tackle -- he is the best tackle we have. He does play defense for us, and as a defensive lineman he is very good in the zone blitz scheme because of his ability to drop into coverage. We could play him at tight end, but he's our best tackle and our best defensive lineman, so that's where we play him. He is o.k. with that, too. He is really unselfish."

Dipofi has had his share of players go on to college, and he knew early on that Madsen was likely to join those ranks.

"We had a halfback a couple of years ago named Boyd Doyle who went to Navy, and is a couple years ahead of Joe. Bobby said that Joe was always the first guy picked whenever guys were choosing up sides to play."

In addition to that telling assessment (is there anything more indicative of what players think of each others' skills than when choosing sides?), Dipofi notes that West Virginia's coaches were likewise impressed when they saw Madsen in person.

"I think their eyes were opened on the pass rush drills, but seeing his skill playing in space got their attention too," he said. "I think he is a steal. He is a knuckle down work ethic kind of guy. His strength numbers (305 in the power clean and 385 on the bench) make him very strong for a high schooler. That is a nice combination. And he will grow more too. I can't imagine where he will end up with the strength program they have at West Virginia. Their weight room is phenomenal, and I think the sky is the limit for him in their program."

In addition to a balance of strength and agility, Madsen also has the same in his demeanor.

"He has a great sense of humor. He's very happy and a funny kid, but is intense too," said Dipofi. He has the best of everything. He is a very sharp kid, and very eager to learn. One thing he really liked about West Virginia is that the coaches there coach hard, just like we do here. He is really looking forward to it."

Madsen has long eyed WVU as a potential destination, and was thrilled when the offer from the Mountaineers came this summer.

"He has this old West Virginia shirt, and he wears it all the time. His mother is from West Virginia, and this has been his dream ever since he was a kid. It's something the whole family has wanted him to do. He had at least four other offers from Bowling Green and three other MAC schools. But as soon as West Virginia offered, that was pretty much it."

Dipofi, who has attended West Virginia coaching clinics and employs similar, but not identical offensive schemes to the Mountaineers, believes that Madsen will fit in quickly with the WVU attack.

"We are a speed sweep team, more of a flying zone team. We are similar to Arkansas in that respect. Our underneath plays are very similar to West Virginia's. Joe is a very intelligent player that picks things up quickly, so I think if he goes on offense that system will suit him."

While Madsen, like many linemen, will likely face a year or two of development before making an impact on the field, Dipofi believes that college might not be his last stop as a player.

"He has the tools and the ability to be a great player. And with the great staff and program there, well, I just think the sky is the limit. You never know how things might work out, but I think that with everything he has, and everything West Virginia has to offer, there's no limit on his potential."

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