Vols chase 5-star 'backer

Tennessee has pulled some great linebackers out of Virginia in recent years - Jerod Mayo of Hampton and Rico McCoy of Washington D.C. being two of the most noteworthy.

Now the Vols are trying to pull another. Travis Hughes of Kempsville High in Virginia Beach is a 6-1, 225-pounder who is rated a 5-star recruit by Scout.com and ranked No. 5 nationally among middle linebackers. He currently lists Tennessee among his eight favorites.

"I am interested in the Vols, definitely," he told InsideTennessee on Wednesday night. "I have a good rapport with Coach Chaney (offensive coordinator Jim Chaney). He dropped by the school a couple of times. I haven't had much contact lately but they have one of my boys, Justin Hunter (a freshman wideout from Virginia Beach)."

Hughes described Chaney as "a very good guy to talk to ... funny ... he reminds me of Rex Ryan of the Jets."

Hughes plans to take an unofficial visit to the Tennessee campus but says Chaney is pushing him to upgrade to an official visit. The Vol aide has a surprising number of Virginians assisting him in this endeavor.

"Coach Chaney is wanting me to give 'em a chance," Hughes said. "A lot of people around here are wanting me to go there. I don't know that there's a lot of Tennessee fans in this area but I keep running into them."

Their interest in steering him toward Knoxville is understandable. Hughes appears well worthy of his 5-star rating. He recorded 79 tackles last fall and also led all Virginia Beach rushers with more than 1,300 yards from his tailback position.

"I was actually more productive on offense last season," he said, "but I'll make my money on defense."

That's because linebackers with Hughes' blend of size, speed and aggressiveness are rare.

"I run a 4.5 in the forty but I'm looking to get down to 4.4," he said. "I've got a pretty good burst. I get to the ball fast. I play well in open space, and I can run just about anybody down."

Given all of the above, Hughes could attend just about any college in America. Right now he's considering only eight.

"My top five are Virginia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina and LSU," he said. "Then there's Michigan, Tennessee and UVa."

Asked what he's looking for in a school, Hughes replied: "Basically, a mixture of everything. My rapport with the coaches is important. Who can coach me up the best? Who can get me to the next level? I want to go to a program that's going to win some games.

"Fan support is important, and I know the fan support at Tennessee is awesome. I like to see a family atmosphere on the campus. I want to feel like I'm at home, and I want my family to be comfortable with where I go to school."

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