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Knoxville (Catholic) prospect Daniel Hood could be headed to his choice of almost half the schools in the Southeastern Conference this weekend, but his planned destination is Oxford, Miss.
With offers from the likes of Auburn and Tennessee in the SEC and a host of others including ACC schools Georgia Tech and Florida State and nationally from UCLA and Stanford, Hood has an impressive list of suitors.
However, the 6-foot-5, 255 pound athlete is headed to Ole Miss thanks to the work of Rebel offensive coordinator Kent Austin.
Austin, who recruits eastern Tennessee for Ole Miss, is turning into an atypical offensive coordinator when it comes to recruiting. He's already responsible for two of the Rebels' five commitments - quarterback Clayton Moore and Morristown, Tenn. linebacker Demarcus Knight. While many offensive coordinators tend to recruit mostly quarterbacks and otherwise shy away from recruiting, Austin is apparently embracing it during his first season as a college coach.
"Coach Austin is a great man, the way he sounds to me," Hood said on Tuesday evening. "We've had three or four conversations and I think the shortest one was 40 minutes."
It's that relationship that has Hood headed to Ole Miss this weekend - that plus a brother who is moving to Oxford where his girlfriend is working on her doctorate.
"I talked with Coach Austin and after talking with him and my brother, my mom and I decided to leave late on Friday to go down and check it out this weekend," Hood said. "I want to get a feel for the school. It's a place I really want to visit, I've heard great things about it."
Another thing that has Hood intrigued with Ole Miss is that the Rebels are the only school that is recruiting him as a tight end. Other schools are projecting him on the offensive line, likely at tackle.
Ole Miss' intended use of Hood as a tight end plays into what's going on with his senior season at Catholic.
"I'm looking forward to playing tight end this fall," he said. "I'll still play tackle some, but I'm anxious about getting to play tight end."
Hood grew up in Knoxville and was a Tennessee fan; however, he proclaims himself more of an SEC fan.
"I was watching all the SEC games last year, particularly with LSU winning the championship last year and Florida the year before," he said. "I've always been a huge fan of the SEC."
While many recruits don't know a lot about Ole Miss beyond the fact that Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning played for the Rebels, Hood is obviously more informed about the Rebels' situation.
"Even though the program hasn't been stellar the last few years, I think they now have the right coaches," Hood said. "Coach Austin has been telling me how successful he was in the CFL and you can see how successful Houston Nutt was at Arkansas. The impressive thing about Ole Miss is the coaches. They are not stuck up, they are not conceited, they are players' coaches."
"Coach Austin was telling me how Coach Nutt didn't even take a summer vacation this summer because he wanted to be on campus and form a better bond with the players," he continued. "That really impressed me."
Aside for a budding college career in football, Hood also has another love - basketball. With a 3.8 GPA and a 27 on the ACT, Hood said he could probably graduate from high school early, but prefers to stick around for his final semester in high school next spring to compete in basketball.
"I play the post in high school, and I'm not tall enough to play that position in college," Hood said. "If I could get on a practice team in college, I'd love to do that. Different sports work different muscles and I know basketball would help my leaping ability in football."
So far, Hood says he has taken unofficial visits to UCLA and Virginia Tech and that he's really not gotten serious about the recruiting process.
"I really don't have a favorite at this point, I'm still just thinking about it," he said. "I've been busy preparing for the upcoming season, for my new role on the team, and doing a weekend visit whenever I can."
In addition to a strong relationship with Austin and a brother relocating to Oxford, Hood has one other Ole Miss connection - 2008 Rebel signee Andre Sterling, who recently graduated from Farragut High school in Knoxville. Hood says he and Sterling are close friends. Sterling told RebelSports.net recently that he'll attend Hargrave Military Academy this fall and re-sign with Ole Miss in February and he plans to enroll in January.