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What 2019 TE Hayden Rucci could bring to Wisconsin

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The four-star standout shows some intriguing skills that will translate to the next level.

On Feb. 5, Lititz, Pa., tight end Hayden Rucci publicly announced that he was verbally committed to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Listed at 6’5, 230 pounds on his Hudl profile, Rucci—a four-star tight end by 247Sports composite ranking and Rivals—chose Wisconsin over the likes of Michigan State, Duke, Minnesota, Northwestern, Pitt, Virginia, and West Virginia, among others who offered the standout tight end.

There are Big Ten and NFL connections within the Rucci household, as both parents played sports at Penn State. His mother, Stacy, was an All-American field hockey player, while his father, Todd, played in 85 games (75 starts) on the offensive line for the New England Patriots from 1993–2000 after playing for the Nittany Lions.

Based on his junior-year highlights, Rucci could quickly become a college football player who already has qualities that are cornerstones of current and former Badgers who play the position.

“In my tight end position, I am a skilled blocker,” Rucci told B5Q last Thursday, “and the thing I think that separates me from a lot of other tight ends is my blocking ability and just going 100 percent on every play, whether it’s in the receiving game, catching the ball or blocking and just finishing people into the ground, which is what I love most besides scoring touchdowns. I think that’s a big part of my game which helps me get to the next level.”

Before even getting into a potential impact on Wisconsin’s passing attack, the one thing that stands out in his highlight film is the tenacity and aggressiveness in the run game. Once Rucci latches on in blocking a defender, his target is most often either pushed back extensively out of the play or winds up on his back/rear end. The number of pancake blocks in the nearly 10 minutes of tape made me hungry for IHOP (also shoutout to the Pancake Cafe, located in two locations in the greater Madison area), to be quite honest.

Rucci’s highlights also show he plays to the whistle while blocking, often driving opponents while extending out to the second level of defenses in an impressive fashion for a prep tight end.

Listen to Rucci on the latest episode of Bucky’s 5th Podcast (18:25–30:45). Subscribe here.

In the passing game, in which Rucci caught 19 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns according to his Hudl profile, that first highlight above is him split out wide to the left and reeling a contested ball for a touchdown.

Rucci also is utilized as a receiver from a standard tight end look on the line of scrimmage, as seen in catching passes in the flats and turning it up field. He also has shown the ability to pick up those yards after the catch, and as he noted, continued to put forth the effort in several instances to gain extra yards after making receptions.

Those attributes appear to project him becoming a multi-faceted contributor in head coach Paul Chryst’s offense.

“Talking with [tight ends coach Mickey] Turner, and I agree with him,” Rucci said, “he sees me as the Y-position, or in-line tight end—the guy who blocks and catches, which is what I’ve been doing in high school and gonna bring up to the next level.”

Rucci, who still plays lacrosse and had played basketball up until this season, strives to mold his game after Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“Being a Patriot, just the level of play, he’s my idol as tight end.”