“I’m just ready to make that transition,” Hughes said. “I know it will be hard, but I get preached to every day about not falling behind and trying to stay on top of everything every day. So I’m going in with that mindset from the start.”
Hughes, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete from New Bern (N.C.), verbally committed to UNC over Florida and NC State just before Christmas. Initially, he planned to enroll in the spring semester. But, the timing of his collegiate decision complicated the situation ultimately forcing him to delay his enrollment.
According to Hughes, all of the formalities required for his enrollment have been met.
“Everything is all good to go,” Hughes said.
Since he graduated from New Bern High in December, Hughes’s focus has been preparing for his UNC career.
“I’ve just been working out every day and just getting ready,” Hughes said. “They sent me a workout packet and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. It’s going pretty good – I feel pretty confident about coming in.”
In addition to the workout packet, which was constructed by UNC’s strength and conditioning staff, Hughes has been training with his uncle. His uncle has trained Hughes in football specific drills since he was a child. However, the training became defensive back specific following Hughes’s high school graduation.
“I feel like I’m getting stronger and of course I still have my speed,” Hughes said.
In addition, Hughes has gained seven pounds since the football season.
On Monday, Hughes will move into a suite with Jalen Dalton, Juval Mollette, and Anthony Ratliff-Williams. All three suitemates were members of the 2015 recruiting class and enrolled in January.
“I think we’ll get along great,” Hughes said. “We already knew each other from camps and we spent a week at the Shrine Bowl together. So we’re already comfortable with each other.”
Hughes will begin taking classes at UNC on May 13. He is considering majoring in sports management.
When Hughes committed to UNC, Dan Disch not only served as Hughes’s primary recruiter but he coached Hughes’s likely position - cornerback. Furthermore, Hughes cited his relationship with Disch among the reasons for choosing UNC. After Signing Day, though, Disch was dismissed.
Hughes has since cultivated relationships with UNC’s new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and new secondary coach Charlton Warren, in addition to continually speaking with head coach Larry Fedora.
“My relationship with Chizik and Warren is coming along pretty good,” Hughes said. “I didn’t really lose any sleep from the situation with Coach Disch, but I just moved on and I feel like [Chizik, Warren, and I] will have a great relationship.”
Those relationships have been helped by Hughes’s numerous weekend visits to UNC since December. Some of those stays included spring practices where Hughes was able to evaluate the Tar Heels’ newly installed 4-3 defensive scheme.
“I think the defense that we’re running will be pretty good,” Hughes said. “I expect a huge improvement from last year.”
Hughes has not discussed jersey numbers with the UNC coaches. He would love to continue to wear No. 1, his high school number, but realizes that will make it difficult for him to see offensive snaps. Junior running back Khris Francis currently sports the number.
Speaking of pulling double duty, UNC’s plan for Hughes remains unchanged – he’ll probably be used as a cornerback but the staff will experiment with offensive packages specific to Hughes.
“I’ll play where the team needs me the most,” Hughes said. “I guess wherever the depth is short and I think that’s on defense.”