By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Jay Hughes got a taste of the starting job at safety in the final three games of the 2012 season for Mississippi State.
Hughes trained hard during the offseason to secure the starting role at free safety last fall.
However his time as a starter would be short-lived, suffering a season-ending ruptured Achilles in the opener against Oklahoma State. Hughes was off to a good start against the Cowboys having already notched a tackle and broke-up a pass before going down with the injury.
“It was devastating and really hurt,” Hughes said. “On play six, everything I’d invested just went down the drain. But I’m still here and still got one more year so we’re going to make it happen.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder had to watch from the sidelines as the Bulldogs went on to appear in their fourth consecutive bowl game with his understudy, Kendrick Market, filling his spot in the secondary.
Hughes is limited this spring but has healed enough to begin his comeback.
“I’m about 85 percent right now,” Hughes said. “It’s been real hard. I’m in there daily with the trainers rehabbing. I’m trying to work as hard as I can because I’ve got a championship on my mind.”
Easy does it
Hughes has taken a cautionary approach to his return, hoping not to re-aggravate and suffer another setback.
“I’m not going to try to push anything,” Hughes said. “I’ve been doing what I can in individual drills and special teams drills. I feel like I’m moving pretty good but it can be better, and that’s something I’m going to have to keep working on.”
The rising senior will have the option to apply for a medical redshirt after the season is over but wants to hold off on thinking that far in advance.
“I want to wait and see how this year goes,” Hughes said. “I don’t want to look too far ahead. I’m just going to do what I have to now so that when that time comes I’ll have that decision to make.”
Hughes is the son of MSU safeties coach Tony Hughes, who has coached at Ole Miss and Southern Miss as well. Some might scoff believing the veteran is starting his youngest son as a sign of playing favorites, but that is not the case at all according to Jay.
“I feel like he coaches me a little bit harder than everybody else,” Jay Hughes said. “He wants me to be the best that I can be. He doesn’t really say a whole lot, but I know that he really cares and I try to live up to the level that he sets for me.”
Hughes has played in 27 games during his time at State making 44 tackles, three tackles for loss and four pass deflections.