Going outside their norm, the Badgers extended an offer to Helias (MO) HS freshman athlete Hale Hentges, joining Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State and Missouri into the early mix for the 6-4, 215-pound prospect.
Badger Nation caught up with Helias assistant coach and proud parent, Chris Hentges, to discuss his son's recruitment, his abilities and his family's thoughts toward the University of Wisconsin.
BN: For starters, you have to be a proud father and proud coach when you step back and look at what Hale has accomplished in such a short time?
Hentges: I am very proud and very excited just for the attention he has received in such a very short period of time. I anticipated he would get some interest, but it's been really remarkable the offers that have come and the interest he has generated from his freshman year.
BN: Most schools won't recruit past a high school player's sophomore year, so why do you think it has come for him this early?
Hentges: A lot of coaches said they like his frame. He already has good size at 215 pounds and he is athletic. The coaches that I have talked to said they can see that on tape with his ability to change direction with his hips. His highlight tape is just a collection of maybe 15 or 20 of his best plays, but his versatility as a freshman to play some defensive tackle, both strong and weak defensive end and a traditional tight end with his hand on the ground.
He has the ability to block, able to get vertical and make the catch, can play the slot and split receiver and block, catch the ball in intermediate routes and score touchdowns. He's got good speed, good athleticism and making plays at different positions all over the field, and that's kind of what the coaches have been telling me that was one of the more impressive aspects of his very young tape. They see unlimited potential in him because of his ability to make plays at different positions.
BN: Has he had his big growth spurt yet?
Hentges: He has. We weighed him today because we are going through our end-of-the-year testing and I think he'll grow another inch. I can't see him getting 6-7 or 6-8 because if that was the case we would probably go the route of basketball. He's a heck of a basketball player, too. He was an All-District forward in basketball this past year, too. We made that decision that he is going to level off, so I would be shocked if he got any bigger because he's had that growth spurt. He focus is on football because if he were any bigger, he'd be a college basketball player. He's got a good frame and I think he has the ability to hold a lot of weight. He led our team in sacks from the weakside defensive end position. There are some coaches that project him on either side of the ball, and that all depends on how big he gets. Now his goal is just improving his overall athleticism.
BN: Since he is a freshman and college coaches can't talk with him, how big a part have you played in the early stages of his recruitment?
Hentges: All they can do is bump in and say ‘Hi.' It's strictly incidental contact. We've gone to every campus that has offered us, so there is more contact with the coaches on unofficial visits. Arkansas was the first to offer, then Iowa, then Iowa State, then Missouri and now Wisconsin. Most recently, Notre Dame said they are coming down next week to see him and meet him. They really liked his tape, and I think they want him to come up to camp this summer. We've had Kansas State, Wyoming, Tulsa come in and show great interest, as well.
BN: What was the vibe and the feel that you got from Wisconsin?
Hentges: We had a great visit to Wisconsin. Coach Buh is the recruiter that we initially made contact with at a clinic. We were just talking about our versatile tight end, loved the tape, sent it to offensive coordinator Matt Canada and the new tight end coach Eddie Faulkner. They both loved it and showed it to coach Bielema, they invited us up for the spring game and had a great day visit. We met with coach Bielema, went into his office and offered Hale a scholarship.
We were very impressed with the people. We were very impressed with the program as a whole. It wasn't a great day weather wise, but Hale really enjoyed his visit. We left feeling Wisconsin is a real possibility. It's a program that has won two Big Ten championships and gone to the Rose Bowl the last two years, and one of the criteria Hale is looking at is going to a program with a winning tradition and stability. That's an important factor for us, as well as a strong academic reputation. Wisconsin fits the bill on all three of those, so Wisconsin left a good impression on us.
BN: You admitted that his recruitment has picked up so fast, so how do you guard against not speeding up your time frame and letting his recruitment get too overwhelming?
Hentges: The plan for him is to continue to work, get better and work on putting together a sophomore tape and then eventually a junior tape. We want to find the best fit for him and not rush through anything or make a firm decision whether he's going to play defense or offense. Right now we're learning towards offense and maybe him playing a tradition tight end role. If he can get up to 6-5 and 255 by the time he enters college, he would be a really good inline tight end with his hands and speed. Things can always change, but it's a huge decision that's going to affect his whole life. He's very humble, very down to earth and is very shocked by all of this. He wants to take it slow and not rush into anything.