Unwrapped: 2009 OL Chase Hughes

The Bootleg's Andy Drukarev caught up with one of the top prospects on the Cardinal's ever-shortening 2010 board. Alabama OL Chase Hughes is big and strong and has a habit of "bench-pressing" opponents, which has caught the attention of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Read on to see what this son of the South thought about a recent humidity-free trip to the Bay Area and where Stanford now stands.

Unwrapped: 2009 OL Chase Hughes

It's not often that you hear about a head coach of a BCS football team wondering how a high school offensive line prospect is able to so consistently dominate his competition. But then again, you probably haven't heard of Chase Hughes.


A three-star prospect from Springville High School in Springville, Ala, Hughes has a physical style of blocking that left a major impression on Stanford's head coach Jim Harbaugh.


"Coach Harbaugh always talks about how I just pick people up and throw them down on the ground when I'm blocking," Hughes said. "He loves that. He wanted me to show him how I do it but I'm not really sure how I do it. I just do."


One theory would have something to do with Hughes' otherworldly physical strength.


Hughes set an Alabama state record for his age group by benching 365 pounds in a competition and has benched as much as 445 pounds. He also says he can squat as much as 720 pounds and dead-lift 655.


"I have pretty good technique [as a blocker] but my physical strength is definitely a strong point," Hughes said.


The 6'2, 290-pound mauler has attracted the attention of a number of colleges, mostly located in the southeast. Hughes has seven offers from Auburn, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Tulane, and Southern Alabama.


Earlier this month, Hughes and his family took an unofficial visit to the one West Coast school that has offered him.


"I went out to Stanford two Thursdays ago," Hughes said. "All the coaches were gone though so we just turned it into a vacation and stayed until the next Friday."


Hughes and his parents spent the first few days of their California vacation in Palo Alto getting to know the Stanford campus and its surrounding areas. Then, the family drove up to San Francisco for what turned out to be an unexpectedly frigid three days.


"I was amazingly surprised that I had to wear a hoodie in California," Hughes said. "When we were in Palo Alto it was breezy but it wasn't cold or anything because the sun was out all the time, so it was like perfect. Then when we got to San Francisco all of us got out of the car and we were like 'holy crap its cold!' "


But even on those warmer California days, the dry Bay Area heat doesn't compare to the exhausting humidity of the Deep South. Some would also argue that California cuisine can't match up with Southern food, but Hughes disagrees with that assessment.


"The food was different but it was really good," Hughes said. "Down here we have grits and all that country cooking. In California we went some place and I ordered something and off the menu that started with a ‘p' and I didn't have a clue what it was. I started eating it and I was like ‘man this tastes like grits.'  I asked the guy what it was and it was grits just named something else. [Editor - very likely "polenta"] Also, no one down there has sweet tea [Editor - Not true, even McDonald's is offering very decent sweet tea now] which is weird once again for me but I don't drink sweet tea. All I drink is water but my dad wasn't too happy about it."


All in all, the Stanford visit left a positive impression on Hughes.


"Well, the Stanford name kind of stands out for itself," Hughes said. "It's Stanford - it's the top or one of the top schools in the world. I also think that their football team is going to be really good. I also loved California. It's completely different from Alabama, not that I don't love Alabama. It's just really hot here sometimes. When we left it was probably mid- to high-90's with like 100 percent humidity so when I got off the plane in California it was like heaven."


Now, after having taken several college visits to schools like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt in addition to Stanford, Hughes has narrowed down list to three.


"My top three would probably have to be Auburn, Stanford, and Vanderbilt as of right now," Hughes said.


For most of the recruiting process, Hughes had actually considered Auburn to be far and away his top choice. But in recent weeks, those other schools have started to grow on Hughes.


"Auburn was my top school by far but once I started going places I realized that other schools have so much to offer," Hughes said. "I don't really have a top school its just sorting them out and laying out the pros and cons of them,"


With all three schools on equal footing, Hughes is hoping to make a decision before the start of his senior season.


 "I'm hoping to decide before the season just so I can concentrate and put every ounce of my thought into the team and having a good season and so I don't have to be worried," Hughes said. "The whole recruiting process is the most confusing thing I've ever done in my life. I think about it all the time because it's a huge part of my life and I don't want to make the wrong choice."


But if for some reason football doesn't work out for Hughes, he may have a second career in the ever growing field of competitive eating. At a recent Auburn junior day, Hughes took first place in a cake-eating contest.


"I told you my family likes to eat man," Hughes laughed. "I won the cake-eating contest by eating a strawberry shortcake but it was still like halfway frozen so it was really, really cold. I think I ate all of it but some of it probably fell out when I was eating out of the bowl because it was halfway frozen."


As a fan of eating (the non-competitive variety) himself, your favorite ‘husky' Bootleg recruiting reporter asked Hughes if there was any cutting-edge strategy that helped contribute to his victory.


"I actually didn't really have one," Hughes said. "It was just to eat it as fast as I could – that was my strategy. I wanted some water but I couldn't go get any because we were on a baseball field so there really wasn't any water around. I just kind of dug into it with my hands and started eating it as fast as I can. I eat really fast anyway so it wasn't really a problem."


But really, Hughes should have no problem with whatever career path he decides on. He reports a 4.0 high school GPA and scored a 27 on the ACT despite not studying for the test beforehand.


"I'm hoping to bring that up to around a 30," Hughes, who said he wants to one day work as a football strength coach, said. "That's kind of a stretch, but I never studied for the ACT and I got a 27. I just went and took it to see what I could get. I'm going to take a six-week course and take the test again and see if I can bunker down and do well on it."


Hughes is ranked as the 19th best center prospect in the class of 2010 by Scout.com but has yet to be evaluated by the other oft-mentioned recruiting coverage site.

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