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BC notebook

Huge steps for Hughes

Ex-receiver may start at safety

Hampton Hughes was playing on offense in spring drills. Hampton Hughes was playing on offense in spring drills. (Globe File/Winslow Townson)
By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / August 25, 2011

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The odyssey for Hampton Hughes began soon after the Boston College spring football game when coach Frank Spaziani awarded the 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pound junior a scholarship.

For the former walk-on wide receiver/defensive back from Dallas, it was the beginning of what has turned into a magical spring and summer.

Four months later, Spaziani quietly announced that Hughes would switch from wide receiver to defensive back, where he had earned most of his fame at Dallas’s Jesuit Prep.

And in yesterday’s fourth and final scrimmage of training camp, Hughes was comfortably ensconced as the starting free safety, a position he could be filling when the Eagles open the regular season against Northwestern Sept. 3.

“It’s a great story,’’ said BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo, who watched the early part of the scrimmage from the press box.

It is all of that, in terms of opportunity meshing with desire and perhaps talent that is now starting to blossom in Hughes’s fourth season at The Heights.

“Hampton Hughes is a football player,’’ said Spaziani after the scrimmage, which was dominated by the defense. “We knew when he walked on.’’

Hughes was a preferred walk-on, which meant he was invited to training camp.

“He’s not the most gifted athlete, but he is good enough, fast enough,’’ said Spaziani. “We’re lucky to have him.’’

Hughes’s father, Randy Hughes, was a star defensive back at the University of Oklahoma and played six years with the Dallas Cowboys. Hampton played both wide receiver and safety in high school and came to BC because he felt comfortable in the Jesuit setting.

“I just loved the place,’’ said Hughes, who had two tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception in the scrimmage. “And football became an opportunity.’’

Hughes will compete with redshirt freshman Sean Sylvia for the starting spot at free safety that opened this week when Okechukwu Okoroha was dismissed from the team. He said the switch to defense came as somewhat of a surprise.

“I figured I would be playing wide receiver through training camp,’’ said Hughes. “But then Coach Spaz said, ‘We need you on defense, and you have an opportunity to play.’ I said, ‘Fine with me.’

“It’s a huge opportunity. I’m just going to keep showing up and see what happens.’’

Hughes might not be the starter for the opener, but he is definitely closer to achieving that goal than he was a month or even a week ago.

“He’s in the mix,’’ said Spaziani.

Next move Training camp ends today with a morning workout. The players will move into their dorms this afternoon . . . For the first time this summer, the defense shut down the offense. Starting quarterback Chase Rettig completed 20 of 28 passes for 171 yards but did not throw a touchdown and was picked off four times . . . The offense was hurt by the absence of the two top running backs, Montel Harris (knee) and Andre Williams (ankle). Harris will miss at least the first two games, while Williams expects to be back for the opener.

Ins and outs Some of the injured players on defense - such as lineman Nate Ramsey - returned to action, but not offensive guard Nate Richman (back). Also missing was cornerback Donnie Fletcher (back) . . . Freshman defensive back Spenser Rositano (concussion) was held out of the scrimmage but could be back by Sunday when game prep for Northwestern gets serious . . . Colin Larmond Jr. pulled down 10 catches for 89 yards.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.