Hughes, 6-5, 240-pounds with 4.85 speed, put together a monster season as a sophomore for the 9-3 Panthers despite missing two games with a minor injury. In 10 games, the hard-nosed pass rusher with rare leadership qualities recorded 83 tackles, 22 quarterback hurries, 17 tackles for loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles.
Hughes was named defensive player of the week for the Panthers twice during the season. The first time was against Westfield after recording nine tackles, seven quarterback hurries, two sacks and two tackles for loss. The second award was after an otherworldly effort against CyCreek in a playoff win. The then 6-5, 215-pound end racked up 17 tackles, four quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and one sack a week after a 13 tackle, five quarterback hurry, two tackles for loss and one sack performance in a first round playoff win over Oak Ridge.
As expected, college programs have taken full notice of the talented strong side defensive end prospect and that includes the Texas Longhorns, who invited Hughes to the recent spring game.
"I did attend the Texas spring game," Hughes said. "The biggest thing was going to see the competition. All of the top guys in their classes. I go to Scout.com and Rivals.com all the time and look at all the people I'm competing against, so it was a chance to go see competition and at the same time, go see all of the Texas coaches."
After arriving around noon, Hughes and the others prospects on hand sat in room together and Mack Brown spoke to the group, which was followed by the game.
"They sat us all down in a room and Mack Brown talked to us for a while. I didn't get a chance to meet him personally, but I talked to Coach Giles a lot. During the game, I was watching Alex Okafor a lot. I've heard a lot of good things about him. I was hearing about him while he was in high school because we seem similar. I was always a skinnier guy, but taller like him," Hughes said.
Hughes, who said the experience was a great one, is now completely focused on the weight room (works out at 6am every morning at Klein Oak) and spring practice, which begins on April 27. After spring practice and the end of the school year, Hughes will return to Austin for summer camp to check out his leader once again.
"As far as recruiting, I'm really open right now. My number one school is Texas. I've watched them since I moved from Alaska to Texas. I'm going to go back for the Texas summer camp. I'm not sure if I'll go to any other camps, but I hope to go to two or three and check out places," Hughes said.
Klein Oak head coach David Smith spoke at length on Wednesday about the work ethic, drive and talent his sophomore star possesses. Those traits were on full display after school on Wednesday at Klein Oak and came through when speaking to Hughes about the game.
"I love pass rushing and sacking the quarterback. I like doing different things like tricking the tackles. I really just love everything about football and preparing to play football. My main focus the last few weeks has been getting stronger to play the run better. I was 215 pounds during the season and am up to 240 now," Hughes said. He has also grown a half inch according to the Klein Oak staff.
Joining Hughes in the talented 2011 class for the Panthers is tight end Max Stevenson (6-5, 210), receiver/punt returner Tory Waites (5-10, 165, 4.45) and corner Cory Waites (5-10, 165, 4.5) among others.