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Football: Star recruit ready to decide on Notre Dame

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Star Chicago running back Robert Hughes is expected to announce his college choice today, and Notre Dame is hoping to pick up another premier tailback.

Hughes is a 5-foot-11, 228-pound bruiser and is listed as running the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. After delaying his decision from earlier this month, Hughes is expected to choose either Notre Dame or Illinois at a 6 p.m. CST announcement at his high school.

The Illini, under second-year coach Ron Zook, have made significant progress in recruiting this year, nabbing several big names despite their 2-10 record. Zook has beaten Notre Dame for two high-profile recruits already this year – Washington, D.C., wide receiver Arrelious Benn and Chicago defensive end Martez Wilson.

Mike Frank, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for Irisheyes.com, a member of the Scout.com network, said he is not sure which school Hughes will select.

“As far as which way he’s going to go, I really don’t know,” Frank said. “He’s been really quiet and hasn’t talked to many people.”

The product of Hubbard High School played in the U.S. Army High School All-American game in San Antonio Jan. 6 and was an All-State tailback as a junior. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in his first three seasons at Hubbard, located on Chicago’s South Side.

Miami-area prospect Armando Allen verbally committed to Irish coach Charlie Weis at the beginning of December, and the addition of Hughes would give Notre Dame its second-straight two-deep running back recruiting class. In 2006, the Irish signed current freshmen James Aldridge and Munir Prince. Aldridge had 37 rushes in seven games last season for a 3.8 yards-per-carry average. Prince saw action in 10 games but had only 15 attempts for 21 yards.

Hughes would be a good complement for Allen because the two have different statures and running styles, Frank said.

“I think Robert would be a big pickup for this class,” Frank said. “They got the smaller, speedier back in Armando Allen … but Robert brings a little more pack and power to it.”

Frank said Hughes reminds some scouts of LenDale White, the former Southern California running back who split carries with the Trojans’ Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.

And Frank said that if Hughes commits to Notre Dame, Wilson may reconsider his commitment to Illinois and give the Irish one more shot.

Notre Dame currently has 18 verbal commitments for the Class of 2011, including three who have enrolled early – Allen, quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Westlake Village, Calif. and cornerback Gary Gray from Columbia, S.C.

“There’s still a number of very good players out there that Notre Dame is recruiting,” Frank said. “Whether they get them is another question.

The athletic department at Hubbard High School did not return calls from The Observer Monday.

Notes:

u Frank said members of the Notre Dame coaching staff likely would meet with Ransey, N.J., defensive end Justin Trattou within the next few days after the highly-ranked lineman visited Florida last week. Trattou committed to Notre Dame in June, but Frank said the Irish coaching staff may be worried that the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder would rescind his commitment and join the Gators instead.