On June 4 Austin Ray trekked south from Columbia, Mo., to Oxford to participate in one of Ole Miss’ football camps.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound tight end impressed the coaching staff enough to garner his first offer from a FBS program.
Last weekend, Ray once again participated in an Ole Miss football camp, and after heading home for a couple of days, he verbally committed to the Rebels on Wednesday.
“Earlier this morning I called Coach (Gunter) Brewer and spoke to Coach (Houston) Nutt. I thought Ole Miss is the place for me. It’s in a great town, a great campus and I thought it was a really good opportunity,” said Ray, who chose Ole Miss over offers from Kansas State and Louisville. “I was just looking for the all-around, the campus, the football program, look at the depth chart a little bit.”
Ray said that while he appreciated the initial offer, he wanted to make a second trip to Oxford to make sure it was the right fit.
“I went to a camp June 4 and after that camp they offered me and they were the first to offer, so that kind of said something for them to be the first ones to come after me,” he said. “I came down for a second look just to reassure things because it’s a big commitment to say, ‘hey I’m going to go here for 4-5 years,’ and to make sure it was the place for you. I felt like Coach Nutt’s track record and success, and they have the new offensive coordinator (David Lee) coming in from the pros and he’s going to run double tight end (formations).
“I just felt like it was a really good opportunity for me.”
Ole Miss’ depth at tight end wasn’t necessarily a deciding factor for Ray.
“Basically what it boils down to is how hard you’re going to work and what you’re going to do to get a spot,” he said.
When Ray arrives on campus, he said he may not start out at tight end after all.
“They’re saying coming in I’d probably be more ideal as an H-back, just until I put on a little bit more weight to block those big defensive ends,” he said. “It just depends on how much I develop and how quickly.”
Ray said his recruitment is officially over and he does not plan on taking any future visits to other universities.
“What I feel is if they’re going to respect my scholarship (offer) then in turn I should respect them,” he said.
As a junior at Rock Bridge High, Ray caught 18 passes for 250 yards and eight touchdowns.
“He plays three sports and is really just a fluid athlete,” Scout.com recruiting analyst J.P. Rock said. “He runs really well, he can stretch the field and he is physical.
“He really uses his basketball skills to his advantage to block people out in the red zone. He also has soft hands,” Rock said. “You can spread him out wide, but he also acts like an in-line tight end. He likes to block and likes physical contact.”
OBHS WR chooses Hogs
In related news, Olive Branch receiver D’Arthur Cowan announced publicly on Wednesday that he has verbally committed to Arkansas.
The 6-foot-1 standout chose the Hogs over offers from Alabama, Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Memphis.
Cowan is coached by former Lafayette coach Scott Samsel.
It does not appear Ole Miss was recruiting Cowan.
(Sports Editor John Davis contributed to this story.) (July 28, 2011, Page 8A)