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Word from the Pen: Mike Hughes

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Here’s a quick look at Minnesota’s new cornerback

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida
Minnesota’s newest member in their secondary.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Name: Mike Hughes

Height/Weight: 5’10”, 189 pounds

Combine stats

40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds

Bench Press: 20 reps

Vertical Jump: 35.5”

Broad Jump: 127”

3-cone drill: 6.7 seconds

20-yard shuttle: 4.13 seconds

Origin story

Heavily recruited out of high school, Hughes received offers from Auburn, Florida, Ohio State and Clemson but committed to University of North Carolina. While at UNC, he played 11 games as a true freshman, recording 10 tackles and breaking up three passes and had one kickoff return that went for 40 yards.

Most of Hughes’ off-the-field concerns stem from his time at UNC. Hughes was suspended for a game in 2015 after being charged with a misdemeanor assault, but the charge was dropped after he completed some community service.

Hughes was kicked out of the UNC football program for a violation of team rules for an incident at a frat house (words that are never good to hear), and it came out last week that it was due to a sexual assault allegation that did not lead to charges being filed against him.

It does appear as though Hughes, who went through an initial Title IX hearing after the accusation, has some evidence to back up his side of the story, as he told Tom Pelissero that he has a witness and text messages to prove his version of events from that night. So while the incident could prove an issue down the line, at least tentatively, it seems as though he’s moved past it and been completely open with teams who asked about it.

Year at CC

After being forced out of UNC, Hughes spent the year at Garden City Community College, where he won a national title and was a JUCO first-team All-American. He was fifth on the Broncbusters (yes, that is in fact their name, I double-checked) in tackles with 47 across 11 games while recording two picks and breaking up six passes.

He got more into the punt and kick return game at GCCC, where he had three return touchdowns.

Return to the big time

After playing well at GCCC, Hughes was originally committed to South Carolina for the 2017 season, but he was not able to complete his degree quickly enough and was unable to sign with the Gamecocks. Hughes eventually became a Knight just two weeks before their season started and had quite the year.

Hughes was named to the 2017 AAC All-Conference first-team list as a cornerback and to the second team as a kick returner. He was a three-time AAC Player of the Week (10/16, 10/30, 11/27) and was named to the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll.

Hughes started 11 of UCF’s 12 games as a corner, where he racked up 44 tackles (32 solo) and a half-tackle for loss. He also broke up 11 passes and had four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. Hughes also came into his own as a return man in 2017, as he returned 20 kickoffs for 635 yards (31.8 YPR) and two touchdowns and 14 punts for 233 yards (16.6 YPR) and one touchdown.

Combine

Hughes declared a year early for the NFL Draft and participated in the NFL combine. He had a very good combine, as he finished second among cornerbacks in bench press reps, tied for the fourth-longest broad jump and had the third-fastest three-cone drill. He was expecting to have a 4.4, possibly even a 4.3 40 time, but ended up running a just-okay 4.53.

Scout analysis

Positives: Hughes is a physical cornerback despite being a little on the short side for a corner these days. He catches the football like a wide receiver, so hopefully dropped interceptions won’t be a problem for him like they have been for Vikings corners in the past. His on-field speed plays incredibly well and he’s got an excellent combination of short-area quickness and run-you-down speed, which also play well into his abilities in the return game. He can run with any receiver in the league and he’s aggressive as hell. He likes to come up and play the run.

Negatives: Hughes, as one would expect, is rather raw. He’s only started one season in the NCAA and has just two at the D-1 level of competition. He’s going to have trouble with wideouts that have a distinct size advantage, which, thankfully, won’t be too much of an issue as he’s now on a team with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Wayes ahead of him on the depth chart. He needs more work on tackling (though he is a willing tackler) and he needs work on his footwork (which, again, plays into the whole “he’s raw” thing). Has character concerns from his time at UNC that teams will need to check into.

Player comps

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: Bradley Roby

Pro Football Weekly: Leodis McKelvin

Bleacher Report: Tre’Davious White

I’ll have more on Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer’s press conferences later on. Should be an interesting second and third days in the draft, no question!