For Hagans, seeing is receiving

There was a good reason why Franklin, Wis., receiver Keven Hagans was troubled with inconsistency

From the moment he saw Keven Hagans playing junior varsity football as a freshman, Franklin (Wis.) High School football coach Jesse Miller was enamored with the wide receiver's playmaking ability. Miller watched a bit of Hagans' first game three seasons ago with Franklin's new receivers coach that year.

"I told him, ‘This is who you are going to have coming through next year,'" Miller recalled during a telephone interview this week. "There were four (consecutive) plays in the 15 minutes or so that we watched that kind of summed up Keven. He had one ball go through his hands and bounce off his facemask. And then the next play he caught a little slant, broke a tackle and went 70 yards for a touchdown…The next play bounced off his shoulder pad and went out of bounds. The next play he jumped up and caught a ball that nobody in the stands even thought it was thrown to him. A catch that no other receiver could make and (he) outran the defense and scored.

"Two of the four plays went for touchdowns so we just knew that as soon as he grew into his body…he was going to be awfully special."

The big plays are nice, and Hagans has proven to be an incredibly productive receiver, but what about the inconsistency the other two plays exhibited?

"He as a sophomore still had… a little bit of a problem catching the ball cleanly," Miller said. "But one of the problems we found out is that he needed glasses."

Hagans started wearing glasses late in his sophomore campaign, his first as a varsity starter, and has donned Rec Specs in practices and games ever since. The turnaround was significant.

"Since he's gotten glasses I can count how many balls he's dropped on one hand," Miller said. "And he's probably caught 70 balls or so (in that time).

"He got his glasses about week eight and then all of a sudden he went about three games in a row where he was over 120 yards and two or three touchdowns in each game. The light went on and all of a sudden the game became awfully easy."

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Hagans finished his sophomore campaign with 45 receptions for 584 yards and six touchdowns. As a junior last fall, he caught 39 passes for 1,049 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named second-team all-state and first-team all-area following the 2004 season.

"He's a kid that scared the heck out of us because every time we scouted them he was the guy that tore up the other team," Oak Creek football coach Joe Koch said recently. "He was like Fred Biletnikoff. It was unbelievable."

Oak Creek, which faced Hagans in each of the past two seasons, has had success bottling up the 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete. Koch said that they had to scheme against Hagans, and they did so by focusing on pressuring the quarterback and jamming Hagans as much as possible to throw off the timing of Franklin's passing game.

"He never hurt us in two years," Koch said. "But then you go and grab another film, like the game before our game, and oh my gosh he must have had 15 catches for 200 yards. We just kind of had his number but he's definitely got the goods. He's got good hands; he's fast; runs pretty good routes; and he's got nice size."

It may not have been quite 15 and 200, but Hagans did make some big plays in the games before and after Franklin's matchup with Oak Creek last season. He caught touchdown passes of 87 and 59 yards in a 41-18 win over Kenosha Tremper in the season opener, and had scoring receptions of 50 and 54 yards in a 28-6 win over Racine Case a week after a loss to the Knights.

In his first season as a starter, as a sophomore, Hagans "grew leaps and bounds as a player," Miller said. "As a sophomore he was the recipient of a lot of single-team coverage and usually it wasn't the best defender. Now, as a junior all of a sudden he is the guy getting doubled and he was still able to put up over 1,000 yards."

Division I colleges are taking notice, but there is currently a hitch with Hagans' academics. He has received a scholarship offer from the University of Houston and a number of schools have stopped by Franklin this spring to evaluate Hagans, including Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa State, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota and Arkansas, among others. Other programs, such as Maryland, Notre Dame and Nebraska, have called Miller to ask about Hagans.

According to Miller, Hagans' favorites, in no particular order, are Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Houston.

The Houston scholarship offer would likely have company, if Hagans' academics were in better order. He scored a 17 on his ACT and has around a 2.2 grade-point average, Miller said.

"He's been getting letters and stuff from about everybody in the country," Miller said. "Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Tennessee, Oregon, Arizona State. And all the guys regionally have all been in and all want him to camp and all that stuff. He's getting looked at by everybody. The thing with Keven, the reason he doesn't have 50 offers on the table is… academically, he's real close.

"In fact, Wisconsin was going to offer him at semester and then he ended up failing a class. So everybody's kind of waiting and keeping their fingers crossed that he's going to academically be all right."

Miller said Hagans does not plan to attend summer football camps; he will instead hone his skills in passing leagues. Franklin needs to break in a new quarterback after senior Ben Hempel threw for 9,370 yards and 92 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

"We do quite a few passing leagues on the weekends and during the week," Miller said. "With having a new quarterback I think he is going to focus on getting some timing down instead of getting to camps."

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