We're Going To Have Our Way With Him

When asked in a press conference about Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, TCU linebacker Darryl Washington laid down the law. "We're going to have our way with him," Washington responded. Boise State and TCU are set to meet Monday night in Glendale in the Fiesta Bowl.

Boise State could be going into a hornet's nest when they face off against #3 TCU in the Fiesta Bowl Monday night in Glendale, Arizona.

One monster they'll have to contend with is consensus All-America Jerry Hughes.

Hughes, a 6-3, 257-pound defensive end with cat-like quickness,  leads the nation's best defense with 11.5 sacks (7th in the NCAA) and 15 tackles for a loss.  He won the Hendricks award as the nation's top defensive end..  Hughes also was the recipient of this year's Lott Trophy that honors on-field performance and personal character among defensive players.

In 2009 Hughes has a career-high 54 tackles. He has helped the Horned Frogs rank first in total defense, allowing just 233 yards per game and sixth in the nation with 12.4 points allowed per game.  Hughes was one of a mind-boggling 18 TCU players on the All-Mountain West team.  Additionally he was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in two years and was an All-American for the second year in a row.

The TCU standout was named to the All-America team by Associated Press, the Walter Camp Foundation, the American Football Coaches Association, CBS Sports and the Football Writers Association of America.

He was named one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Award for the second year in a row.  The Nagurski is handed out annually to the nation's best defensive player.  Other nominees were Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer, Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry, Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who won the award.

Hughes was one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award and one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.  He was also a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award. And he was one of just three defensive players to be named a "Player to Watch" for the Walter Camp Football Foundation's 2009 Player of the Year award.

As a smaller defensive end, he has incredible speed around the outside.  He has run a 4.6 40.  He displays brilliance off the line.  Bigger, slower linemen simply cannot contain him—Hughes runs around them like they are standing still.  He uses his hands extremely well to fight off blocks and has a good change of direction.  It takes excellent footwork, quickness and technique to block him but even with that, a slow-developing play is going to end in disaster thanks to #98. 

And, just in case you were wondering, he beats double teams.

Hughes will be going against an inexperienced right tackle, perhaps redshirt freshman Brenel Myers or another freshman, Michael Ames, because Garrett Pendergast is out due to a fractured ankle.

"You've got to know where Hughes is at," Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "He's established himself as one of the top defensive players in the country so you're not going to have one guy on there by himself the entire game manhandling him and taking care of business. You're going to have to do different things. We're going to have to be creative on the help we give him (Myers) and not leave that guy on an island by himself."

Hughes is among the top 25 National Football League draft prospects according to ESPN's Mel Kiper and at worst is projected as a second-rounder.

As linebacker Daryl Washington said of playing behind Hughes: "It's way too easy. The way he comes off the ball is just unbelievable. If you can pressure the quarterback, it puts us in a good position to make plays that we probably wouldn't make if we didn't have a guy like that."

If TCU is able to duplicate last year's feat of stopping the Boise State running game (the Broncos were limited to 28 yards last year), it gives Hughes more opportunities to crush Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore. 

And yet running is exactly what Boise State has in mind.  "Running the football is the number one thing that we have to do a better job of," Harsin said. "That opens everything else and we can't be one-dimensional." That's easier said than done.  "You can't turn the ball over against a team like this because they'll take advantage of it," Harsin said.  "They're fast and physical. That's the two biggest compliments you can give a defense."

When told of the great year Moore is having, Washington replied "It doesn't matter.  We're going to have our way with him."

Hughes was an all-district running back at Austin High School in Fort Bend , Texas , near Houston . Arizona State was among those recruiting him as a tailback, hoping he would follow his former high school teammate Michael   Jones as a Sun Devil.

Hughes was one of four true freshman to play for the Horned Frogs in 2006. He recorded his first career sack in a 31-17 win over Army. He played in all 13 games the following year, and recorded at least one tackle in each of those contests.

 Taking over as a full-time starter as a junior in 2008, Hughes recorded a nation-leading 15 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and returned one of those picks for a touchdown.  Hughes was All-Mountain West Conference, conference Defensive Player of the Year and an All-America selection on teams announced by CBS Sports, the American Football Coaches Association, SI.com, Rivals.com and the Football Writers Association of America.

"Winning football games," Hughes said last Thursday when asked what was important to him.  "I've always wanted to be part of a championship team so now that I'm getting a chance to live that dream out, it's a great feeling. Individual awards are cool, happy to have them.  But winning games is way more important."

If he has a weakness, pro scouts say, it is at the point of attack, meaning opponents have their greatest success running the ball right at him.  Given his aggressiveness, offensive coordinators would first think of letting him rush and then dumping off a screen in the space he vacated.  But TCU's linebackers know that and are there to guard against that.  Screens generally don't work. 

One play that might work is to allow him to get a rush and then send a back on a delayed handoff in the direction where he was lined up.  Hughes nearly always rushes on the outside, meaning a run between the guard and tackle might be the most successful.

One has to be creative in dealing with Hughes.  "We've got to look at that and help Brenel out—he's not going to be alone on an island." Harsin said.

Hughes' career totals now include 28.5 sacks, 139 total tackles, 39 tackles-for-loss and seven forced fumbles.

He will no doubt be looking to pad those numbers with an incredible display Monday night against the Broncos.

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