South Carolina’s offensive line took a big hit when starting left tackle Jaylen Nichols was lost for most of, it not all of, the season due to a knee injury suffered in the spring game. Even prior to that injury, head coach Shane Beamer and offensive line coach Lonnie Teasley were checking various transfer options to see who might help.
One they hit on was OT Jaxon Hughes (6-6 295) of Greensboro, NC. He started the last two seasons at left tackle for Charlotte after making the conversion from a defensive lineman. Through an outside contact, Teasley connected with Hughes, brought him in for a visit on April 21st, and he committed last week.
“I had a connection with the offensive line coach. My offensive line trainer actually knew him, so when I got into the Portal, they started communicating,” Hughes said. “That’s how they got in contact with me, and they wanted me to come on a visit. They loved me being there, and I loved the facilities and the coaches and the culture they are building there. I was still weighing my options, but the more I thought about it, I didn’t want to be anywhere else but there, so that’s why I committed.”
That visit in April was the first for Hughes to USC as a recruitable prospect. He was struck by what he experienced inside the football building.
“The team culture mostly. They really made me feel like they wanted me there,” Hughes said. “I already have a really good relationship with Coach Teasley. That really helps. Of course, playing there last year on the opposite sideline, I’ve already experienced the atmosphere, what that is. Just putting all of that together, it was just a no-brainer for me that I wanted to go there.”
Hughes understands the Gamecocks have a need at his position with the injury to Nichols, but said he was already under review by Teasley before the injury.
“They told me I have an opportunity to compete before that happened, then that happened, and they said now we have another spot open,” Hughes said. “If someone was hurt or not, that’s where I wanted to be and I know I can compete for a starting job. I can play left. I can play right. I’ve played both. I’ve started at both. I’ve played guard.”
What’s interesting in this particular case is Hughes is walking away from a scholarship situation at Charlotte to be a walk-on with the Gamecocks.
“They said once I come in and do what I’m supposed to do, then a scholarship would be there for me,” Hughes said. “The money really didn’t matter to me. It was where I wanted to be. I wanted to play big time college football and I knew I wanted to be a part of the team. If walking on was the best opportunity, then I was going to take it.”
Hughes has 18 career starts as an offensive tackle playing at the FBS level. Last year he was part of an offensive line that contributed to the 49ers being one of the top passing teams in the country averaging 271 yards per game.
“I bring a lot of experience, have played in a lot of games,” Jackson said. “He (Teasley) likes my athletic ability. Being a former defensive lineman, I move very, very well. I’ve got really long limbs, so I play long. That’s what he likes the most. I’m also a really smart football player, so he liked that, too.”
Hughes will arrive at USC May 30th.