August 14, 2013 9:37:37 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The college recruiting process of Jay Hughes made it plainly clear who runs the show in the Hughes household -- his mother Marion.
Jay's father Tony, who has been the safeties coach and recruiting coordinator at Mississippi State University for five years, was specifically told by MSU coach Dan Mullen to not be involved in his son's recruiting.
"When I arrived at MSU, I told Coach Mullen about my son and how he was going to be highly recruited at the Division 1 level," Tony Hughes said. "He immediately said you let us handle that because it'll be less stressful for everybody in your family."
Jay Hughes suddenly had a interesting decision when it came to his college choice. Most student athletes are trying to decide what institution they'll be attending and reside away from their parents for the first time. Hughes had the option of seeing his father more often as a football player if he signed with the MSU program.
"My wife took him on his visit to all of the important places on campus and all the educational buildings so he could get the full experience without me at all," Tony Hughes said.
In December of 2009, Jay Hughes committed to MSU after the Bulldogs coaching staff, not including Tony Hughes, scouted and did home visits with his mother Marion in the room. When it was close to a time to make a decision, Tony Hughes finally sat in the living room of the house they've kept in Hattiesburg to lay out the three-star defensive back's options.
Now when it comes to pressure from his mother Marion, that's a completely different story. Jay Hughes, who was the 14th best in-state prospect regardless of position by Scout.com, held scholarship offers from Auburn University, Duke University, Louisiana Tech University, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Tennessee, Tulsa University, Vanderbilt University and the University of West Virginia.
Since Tony wasn't going to be able to see his son play if he didn't choose MSU, it was Marion Hughes who informed her son the parameters of which schools were acceptable to choose from.
"It was his mother, my wife, who eventually said in our living room 'Jay I'm not driving eight hours to watch you play your football games' and then it became a easier decision for him," Tony Hughes said with a laugh.
Four years later, Hughes is projected to get significant playing time and possibly start at strong safety when MSU takes the field on Aug. 31 at Reliant Stadium in Houston against Oklahoma State University. Throughout the spring workouts and fall camp his father is now his direct position coach at MSU and while that can carry a level of awkwardness the two are appreciating the moments they have together.
Hughes, who had an interception in the school's spring game in March, admits he is not a vocal leader like graduating cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay but takes after the lead by example personality of former MSU starters Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner.
"His experience last year gave him some major confidence and being a coach's son means he's got great character," MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said. "He's a highly intelligent kid, so he makes all the calls for us on the other side and does a really good job."
Jay Hughes calls his dad in public interviews and on the field "Coach Hughes" and understands he'll have to work even harder to prove he's earning his playing time without any nepotism issues.
"Coach Hughes is working with me every day to make sure I'm getting better at something every day because that's what a leader does," Jay Hughes said after an April 8 practice.
With so much youth and inexperience in the MSU secondary, especially at cornerback, Hughes is seen as a veteran that should know the defensive concepts and finished the 2012 season with 32 total tackles and two passes broken up.
Hughes was able to start the final three games of the 2012 season after the experiment of moving cornerback Corey Broomfield from cornerback to safety failed due to the senior's lack of size. Hughes is expected to mix the speed with his 200-pound frame to the position after mastering the pass defense techniques at cornerback in his first two seasons at MSU.
To say the recruitment of Jay Hughes was easy because his father Tony was on staff isn't completely accurate but in a season opener against Oklahoma State's four and five-wide passing sets, MSU can't help but feel comfortable having a veteran back in the secondary.
"I think it's like any other defensive back," MSU cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend said. "When the ball is in the air, you have to feel like that ball is yours. And they're going to put it in the air a lot aren't they?"