March 7, 2012

Freshman Profile: Gabe Hantsbarger working hard

Talk about it in The Zoo

While Western Michigan has not gotten the production they've sought over the past few years out of the tight end position, the Broncos' coaching staff believes that could change soon with the entry of Pompano Beach, Fla. recruit Gabe Hantsbarger.

"[The tight ends] have got to play at a better level. We have not been real productive there," WMU head coach Bill Cubit remarked. "I think Gabe is a guy, a 235 pound kid right now, he's got a chance to be really something special."

During his recruitment, the 6-foot-5 Hantsbarger was only listed at 217 pounds, but he told BroncoBlitz that he has gained weight and is now at 231. Even at his size, speed is an asset as evidenced by his 4.59 forty time.

Talking with Hantsbarger, it's clear that he is very focused and working hard to improve his game before coming to college, particularly his footwork and acceleration off the line to gain separation. Both the player and the staff expect him to compete for playing time as early as this fall.

"I want to be ready to play when I get there. I don't want to wait a couple months because my body's not ready," Hantsbarger said. "I like the weight I'm at, so I want to maintain this and get faster."

Further, Hantsbarger has an eye on the next level and believes Western Michigan can help him to reach that goal.

"It's a step towards the next level," he said. "[Playing D-1] gives you a better chance to play in the NFL, which I'd like to do."

Hantsbarger said that while Toledo and Samford both offered him a scholarship, WMU was much more persistent in their recruitment, led by coach Ryan Cubit, and the effort paid off. By the time the tight end visited Kalamazoo on January 13th, his mind was essentially made up and the positive visit sealed the deal. As with all of the program's many Florida recruits, heading north will be a major transition for Hantsbarger, but he's looking forward to it.

"I really like the cold, because I hate sweating down here in south Florida during football season," he said.

Part of what excites Hantsbarger about WMU as a program is the offense that the Broncos run, which is similar to the spread that he played in at Highlands Christian High School, and should allow him to be used in a variety of ways. He expects to be moved all over the field including being split out wide, where he excels as a pass catcher more than a blocking tight end.

Planning to study exercise science and nutrition at WMU, Hantsbarger will join a group of tight ends that includes senior Blake Hammond and juniors Clark Mussman and Matt Cutler in the fall. Webster Groves, Mo. product Ben Arnold will also join the Broncos as part of the class of 2012.

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