Since Signing Day, UNC has maintained steady communication with Hughes. That communication, though, has shifted more to Art Kaufman, UNC's linebackers coach, who has told Hughes that he will immediately compete for playing time at SAM, as well as the backup spot at MIKE behind Kevin Reddick.
"First of all, I need to take care of what I need to take care of as far as learning the playbook and making sure I'm doing what I need to do in class and making sure that I'm doing everything I can conditioning-wise, so I can be at the level everybody else is at," Hughes said. "They said there's a great possibility for me to get in early. But I have to go in there and earn it. They have some great boys up there already. "
Hughes primarily played MIKE during his prep career, but has experience at all three linebacker positions.
"I'm very versatile," Hughes said. "It's no problem for me to play any of the three linebacker spots."
Hughes, who's currently taking three core classes this semester, says he's in great shape with the NCAA Clearinghouse. He will graduate from Kempsville on June 15 and then enroll in classes at UNC the following day.
"I'll be starting summer school without a break," Hughes said. "It's coming up real fast – a month and a half."
Hughes plans on majoring in Sociology at UNC.
"I'm trying to get into some sort of law enforcement later on, so that's what I think is the best field for me to be in," Hughes said. "I know [UNC] has some new program [related to pre-law] that they're working on and I might check that out."
Since his football season ended, Hughes has been working out with Kempsville's track team but not competing in meets.
"I was going to [compete in meets], but I pulled my [hamstring] doing it one time," Hughes said. "So I was like ‘Let me go ahead and scratch this, but I can keep my speed up in practice.' I started indoor [track] a little late. By the time I got back into it, they only had two or three meets left."
After working out with the track team each day, Hughes follows the workout regimen that UNC sent him.
"Basically, [UNC's] workout plans start off with running before the lifting," Hughes said. "So what I've been doing is my track workout as the running portion of [the workout regimen], and then doing North Carolina's lifting."
The workout includes several lifts that are new to Hughes.
"Some of the players that are training right now for my high school coming up next year are looking at me crazy with all the different stuff [UNC] has me doing," Hughes said. "Like something simple as a front squat – people just don't do that. I was doing front squats today and they were all looking at me like ‘What is that.'"
Hughes' routine has resulted in a slight weight loss. He's currently at 228 pounds. He played his senior football season at 234.
"I'm trying to cut it down to 225 and then let [UNC] build me up from there [when I get on campus]," Hughes said. "It's something more I wanted to do to keep my speed, because I know speed is very important for Carolina."
For his UNC career, he is targeting a specific jersey number.
"No. 9 has been my favorite number ever since Pop Warner," Hughes said. "It seems like every time I put that number on, I feel on top of the world. I wore No. 2 in high school, because my coach had a No. 2 thing. He loved No. 2, so he persuaded me to wear No. 2."
Hughes said he has spoken to fellow incoming freshmen Norkeithus Otis and Kiaro Holts about possibly rooming together.