The Chargers drafted Brandon Hughes to spark competition in the secondary. The team's pass defense ranked last in the AFC last season, and the hope is that an improved pass rush and a more competitive secondary can push that ranking up towards the middle of the pack.
Hughes is an aggressive cornerback who excels in press coverage. He must work on his zone coverage and improve his ball skills, but his experience against top competition gives him a chance to contribute early.
But what exactly can the Chargers expect from Brandon Hughes in 2009? To find out, Michael Kranzler caught up with Oregon State cornerbacks coach Keith Heyward.
Michael Kranzler: Tell me about Brandon's work ethic on and off the field.
CB Brandon Hughes
Keith Heyward: Brandon has a great work ethic, you know, on and off the field. He was originally a receiver when he came here to Oregon State and then made that move over to cornerback. As far as off-the-field study of what cornerbacks need to do and how to play the position, he's a tremendous student of the game. Just taking what he learned, and of course with the coaching that he's had, his work ethic on the field to perfect that and be a technician and to be the best that he could be made him one of the best guys in the Pac-10. I can't say enough about it. He's just a guy who's going to do whatever it takes to get it right, to help himself out and also help his team.
MK: What is the best part of his game?
KH: He's smart. He's smart and he's savvy. Sometimes he looks a little awkward because of his build and stuff like that, but he's just a smart football player. He's fast also, and he's going to take his tools, his skills that he has and he's going to study the game and he's going to transform that into making plays on the field.
MK: With three former first-round picks already in the secondary for the Chargers, where does Brandon need to make the most improvement to contribute as a rookie?
KH: I would say just being consistent, because he does some good things, and just making sure he sticks to those good things that he does and just being consistent with it. I know in making an NFL team that what you guys are looking for are guys who can be consistent and accountable. As long as he can do that, because I know how it is, you're going to get embarrassed many times and make mistakes out there, but if he can just play consistent he's going to be a fine player for the Chargers.
MK: What sort of role could you visualize Brandon filling in the Chargers' secondary?
KH: I don't know. I don't know the rest of who you guys have in the secondary. Quentin Jammer's there. I don't know all the guys you have out there, but I'm looking at the opportunity that if he gets out there, I'm hoping that he's a guy who would be in the mix as a third or fourth guy, and definitely on special teams, but it depends on the packages you guys have. Knowing Brandon, it's his versatility to play in a nickel or dime situation, he'll be out there for sure, but I guess it's kind of up to his learning and his ability and opportunity that he takes advantage of. Of course, you've got to give it to him if he's able to be that first or second guy, or work into that starting lineup, that's going to take some time.
MK: What is Oregon State going to miss the most about Brandon Hughes?
KH: Just him going out there and being one of those guys that just went out there and worked. Never said much, but he was just one of those guys who led by example and was always working hard with his work ethic and having the younger guys see him do what it took to be a player, or be that model to know what it's like to play college football day-in and day-out, be consistent and accountable for the workouts and film study and stuff like that. I'll miss that I don't have to repeat what I'm saying all the time; he'll just know what needs to get done on certain plays. That aspect of the team, whereas now we'll probably be an inexperienced secondary without him and the other corner that graduated with him, just that experience factor.