July 14, 2008

Hood enjoys weekend at Ole Miss

Daniel Hood didn't get back from his whirlwind trip to Ole Miss last weekend until the wee hours Sunday.

He had every reason to be grouchy and exhausted on Sunday night, but the three-star standout from Knoxville (Catholic), Tenn., was anything but. Instead, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end/offensive tackle was still ebullient about his just-completed time at Ole Miss.

"It was awesome," Hood said.

Hood and his parents got into Oxford Friday night around 8:30, drove around and then retired to the hotel for a solid night's sleep before what promised to be a very long Saturday.

The Hoods met up with Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin mid-morning on Saturday, toured the campus and then toured the indoor practice facility before meeting with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and tight ends coach James Shibest.

"I really just had a great time," Hood said. "It was a great day. We got through around 3 that afternoon and went to eat at Ajax and toured around the time a little bit before we came home."

Because of a wreck on Interstate 40 just outside of Nashville, there was a 40-mile detour that extended the drive from Knoxville to Oxford to nine hours instead of the usual seven. The distance from home was the only negative Hood could think of afterwards.

"That can also be a good thing, too," Hood said.

Hood said his first trip to Oxford was only surprising in that he embarked for north Mississippi on Friday with some pretty lofty ideals in mind for what he'd find at Ole Miss.

"I was expecting really good things because my brother has already been down there and he told me about it," Hood said. "It was actually better than I even expected and I had pretty high expectations. The indoor practice facility is one of a kind. Houston Nutt is a one of a kind guy, a great coach and a great person too, from what I witnessed. The whole staff is all great people."

Hood said he was particularly impressed with Austin.

"We got to see his playbook," Hood said. "It looked to be about 200 pages and I was pretty impressed with it."

Ole Miss is recruiting Hood as a tight end, something that Hood likes "because it makes you stay athletic. You're not trying just to get up to 300 pounds just to be a lot bigger than everybody. I like it. I've seen (Dallas Cowboys tight end) Jason Witten in person one time and on TV with his pads on, he looks like he'd be kind of chubby but in real life, he was a monster."

Hood has now been to UCLA, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss on his summer travels. He'll venture south to Florida and Florida State this weekend then east to South Carolina later this month.

"I'm planning on taking some official visits," Hood said. "I feel like if it's the right decision at the right time, then I'll do it, but if there's any reasonable doubt or if I need to see a school again, I'll go ahead and take the official to get to that 100 percent certainty."

Hood said no school leads in the race for his services yet. Instead, he's intentionally waiting until his trips are completed to weigh the pros and cons of each school and program before deciding where he wants to take official visits in the fall.

"I take a lot of visual pictures," Hood said. "I guess I have a photographic memory, so I'll remember each detail about what I liked about it and what I didn't. I kind of store them and then what I plan to do after visiting all of them is go ahead and make my list out in my head as to which one impressed me the best and which ones I didn't like. Then I want to go back on official visits and see if those things are still there and just see how I'd fit in with that choice."

Hood said Ole Miss' recent struggles won't work against the Rebels' chances to land his services.

"I looked at Coach Austin at what he's done," Hood said. "He just came off a championship season (with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. Houston Nutt is as good a coach as any. With less talent at Arkansas, he finished 8-4 in the toughest conference in the nation. (Ole Miss offensive line coach) Mike Markuson, from what Coach Austin told me, his sheet of players he's put in the pros is a couple of pages long.

"I know this year, Ole Miss is probably going to have one of the top linemen coming out in the draft (tackle Michael Oher). So I'm curious to see how they're going to do this season, but I honestly believe they're going to be one of the contenders."

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