PINEHURST, N.C. – North Carolina’s cornerbacks may be Larry Fedora’s deepest position group, but that hasn’t stopped true freshman Mike Hughes from making his presence felt during OTAs.
Despite minimal national fanfare as a three-star recruit (No. 70 CB nationally) out of New Bern, N.C., Hughes was considered a prized pickup in UNC’s 2015 recruiting class.
“That was a big get for us,” Fedora told reporters on Signing Day in February. “We think Mike is the best athlete in the state."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is living up to that description as training camp approaches. Senior quarterback Marquise Williams tabbed Hughes as the rookie defender that has stood out most during summer workouts.
“He’s been locking a lot of guys down,” Williams said.
Senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer described Hughes as “one of the most athletic guys we have on the team.” During his first week on campus, Hughes was displaying his basketball skills with windmill dunks, according to Schoettmer.
UNC’s two deep at cornerback appeared solid coming out of spring ball with Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart backing up Brian Walker and Malik Simmons.
“He’s not going to be given anything,” Schoettmer said. “He was thrown right into the competition. I give credit to Des and Brian Walker and M.J. and Malik Simmons because they’re competing with him, but they’re showing him the ropes. Even though he could take their spot, they’re still competing with him and teaching him how to do things.”
Hughes will start his career at cornerback, but could potentially see time on the offensive side of the ball. He’s also slotted as a return specialist.
“He can do it all,” Williams said. “He can play quarterback, running back, receiver. He probably can punt the ball. He probably could do anything you ask him to do. He’s a special kid.”
Williams recalled one particular 7-on-7 session this summer when he challenged Hughes on the edge.
“One time he broke on a ball so fast – I did not think he had the ability to get out there so fast – and he looked at me and said, ‘Welcome to college, sir,’” Williams said. “And I was like, ‘Welcome to college? I’ve been here.’
“He’s going to be a guy to look out for this year.”
Hughes Making Noise
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