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August 13, 2009

Alabama center to make return trip to Oxford

If Ole Miss ends up signing Springville, Ala. offensive center Chase Hughes next February, offensive line coach Mike Markuson, who recruits Alabama for the Rebels, can give defensive line coach Terry Price a big thanks.

"Coach Markuson didn't have a clue who I was (when Hughes showed up for Ole Miss' senior camp)," Hughes said on Wednesday evening.

Evidently, Markuson had overlooked Hughes during the recruiting process, that despite Hughes being ranked a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and in receipt of more than half a dozen offers from Division I schools.

However, it didn't take Markuson long to make up for lost ground once he saw Hughes in action, something arranged by Price.

"I got up to Ole Miss late, through no fault of my own," Hughes recalled of his July 25 appearance at Ole Miss' senior camp. "I did some stretching and I was put in a group that wasn't that talented. I knew Coach Price from Auburn, so I went over and told him to put me up against the best defensive lineman they had in camp."

Price winked and said 'you got it.'

After going head to head against an opponent picked out by Price, with Markuson observing, the Rebel offensive line coach could hardly believe what he witnessed.

"Coach Markuson came over and said - who are you," Hughes said. "I just looked at him and said 'I'm Chase Hughes. Then Coach Price told Coach Markuson - 'yeah, he's my boy from Springville.'

Later in the camp, Markuson singled Hughes out, putting him in front of the offensive line campers to demonstrate the flexibility and ability to bend that is crucial for success of offensive line at the collegiate level.

"After camp, we talked and he told me that they were close to offering on the spot, but they wanted to review my film first," Hughes recalled. "Then two days later, on Monday, we were off from (football) practice and my coach called me and told me to come to his office. He said he had received a call from some Ole Miss coaches. So, I called and talked to both Coach Markuson and Coach (Houston) Nutt and they offered. I was really pumped about getting the offer."

The fact that Ole Miss has three centers for the upcoming season (Daverin Geralds, Mark Jean-Louis, and Brandon Green), and all are seniors, puts a premium on signing a center for the Rebels' next class. The only other true center prospect that could help out next season is 2009 signee Evan Swindall, who is taking a gray shirt this fall and will enroll in January and go through spring practice.

Adding to Hughes' appeal is that he's on track to graduate in December - but it's not a given that he'll elect to do that.

"I could graduate from the standard track in December, or stay for the spring and complete the advanced track," he said. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do."

During a 25-minute interview for this story, Hughes repeatedly appeared very high on Ole Miss, but it's not a given that he will pick the Rebels when he decides to commit.

He has offers from Auburn, Stanford, UAB, Southern Miss, Tulane, Vanderbilt, South Florida, Air Force, Duke, and Troy. He is also high on Georgia Tech's radar, but is uncertain if the Yellow Jackets have offered.

"I'm not sure where I stand," Hughes said. "I had named some top teams before, but after this summer, that's all out the window. But Ole Miss is very definitely close to the top."

Hughes, who admittedly grew up a Georgia Tech fan, said his father and grandfather went to Alabama while his mother is a Samford graduate who is an Auburn fan. His brother attends Auburn, but is a Tennessee fan.

"I guess you can say we are a pretty mixed up family," Hughes said.

Alabama and Auburn fans aside, Hughes said his parents were impressed with Ole Miss.

"They raved about the campus and facilities," Hughes said. "It was absolutely gorgeous."

Hughes may not be naming a leader just yet, but a better sign of where he stands may be the fact that he plans a return trip to Ole Miss this weekend with his parents.

"I've got practice on Friday and we're heading up after practice," Hughes said. "I won't get there in time for Friday's practice at Ole Miss, but we are going out for Saturday's practice. My parents also want to talk some more with the coaches."

It's a scenario that is eerily similar to Ole Miss' most recent commitment, that coming from Jared Duke.

Duke showed up at the senior comp as a relative unknown, got an offer the same day as Hughes, made a return trip a few days later for a second more detailed visit with tours, then committed within 72 hours.

"I met Jared down at camp and we've become friends so I'm very familiar with him committing to Ole Miss," Hughes said. "In fact, our parents have become good friends since meeting at the camp."

Hughes hasn't set a timeline for committing, but said it's something he would like to do soon.

"I've been praying about it a lot," he said. "It's something I'd like to do soon and when I get the feeling, which I hope will be soon, I plan to commit."

A couple of things could impact Hughes' decision on is trip this weekend. One is what Ole Miss has to offer in terms of a kinesiology program and another is the depth chart.

"I always hang around the weight room and think I'd like to major in kinesiology or a program that could lead to me being a strength and conditioning coach one day, "he said. The depth chart is also something that I'm interested in. I'm not one for standing around on the sidelines - I want to be on the field."

Hughes said he made a 27 on his ACT on his first attempt without any preparation and supports a 4.0 GPA. He wants to re-take his ACT to improve that score.

Hughes, 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, ran a 5 flat 40-yard dash at the Tuscalooosa Nike Camp in 2008 prior to his junior season.




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