Scouting Report | CB Mike Hughes – UCF

Personal Background

  • Attended New Bern High School in New Bern, North Carolina
  • Enrolled at the University of North Carolina
  • During freshman year at UNC, charged with misdemeanor assault after getting into an altercation at a fraternity
  • Left school for Garden City Community College
  • Transferred to UCF following one season at GCCC

 

Athletic Background

  • Led New Bern High School to a 15-0 record and a state championship
    • Named MVP of the state championship, registering 273 yards rushing and 7 total TDs
  • Rated a three-star recruit coming out of high school by 247 Sports
  • Played in 11 games at UNC
    • Recorded 11 tackles, three passes defended
  • Won state championship at Garden City Community College
    • Finished with two interceptions and six passes defended and starred on the punt and kick return teams

 

Injury history

  • None discovered

 

Production

  • 23 FBS games
    • Career – 37 solo tackles, 12 assisted; four interceptions for 92 yards, 14 pass deflections, one touchdown and one forced fumble
  • Pro Football Focus statistics – 57 targets, 29 receptions for 264 yards; zero touchdowns, opposing quarterback rating 34.5, surrendered a reception every 13 snaps while the primary defensive back in coverage
  • SportsInfo Solutions statistics – Surrendered 4.42 yards per attempt, 21.77 yards per game
    • Kick return yardage – 19 returns for 618 yards, two touchdowns, long of 95 yards
    • Punt return yardage – 13 returns for 292 yards, one touchdown, 17 fair catches, long of 81 yards

 

Film Reviewed

  • Memphis 2x
  • SMU
  • Auburn
  • USF

 

Measurables

  • Year – Junior
  • Height – 5′ 11″
  • Weight – 191 pounds
  • Projected 40 time – 4.48 (Per NFL Draft Scout)

 

Strengths:

  • Very good athlete overall
  • Possesses very quick feet and can reach top speed immediately; feet are always under his shoulders or inside
  • Rarely out of phase, possesses the speed to recover and get back in phase position
  • Skillset to play outside or in the slot
  • Understands the weakness of the defensive play call and how teams want to attack it
  • Digests route combinations quickly and calmly
  • Confident in his skills, will not back down from any wide receivers; plays bigger than his size
  • Can mirror all types of receivers due to his foot speed, fluidity and disruption
  • Routinely matched up against opponents’ best receiver on critical down-and-distances
  • In press man – displays very good technique; strong hand strikes with very good placement; forces the receiver to really work for his release and has the feet to mirror when in close contact; forced the receiver out of bounds on several occasions and leans into targets down the field as to not lose spatial awareness
  • In zone – average at pattern matching versus stacked WR sets with room to improve; opens hips with plenty of time to prevent the wide receiver from closing his cushion; good spacing of route combinations; squeezes seam routes deep after clearing the #1 WR in Cover 3
  • Ball Skills – above average; consistently attempts to punch or rip the ball out after surrendered receptions
  • Versus the run – flashes a willingness to come up to make a tackle by sacrificing body to undercut the puller on gap runs and screens
  • Tremendous returner; suddenness and vision can create space to operate and put blockers in position

Weaknesses

  • Less than ideal height and weight for the position
  • Center of gravity can become too high in his backpedal; Can cause him to be a half a click slow when asked to open his hips, turn and run
  • Struggled against bigger physical receivers
  • In man coverage – Gave up a fair share of inside releases; feet would stall against hard outside jabs then lateral burst by the wide receiver into the drive phase; then struggled to stay on top of the route; relegated to the back hip in trail technique, which made it very difficult for him to make a play on the ball, especially versus bigger, taller receivers due to diminutive size and strength
  • In zone coverage – while he is rather aware of where his help is, will often come off a crossing target earlier than when his help is in position; has lapses in pattern matching, makes a move too soon, which cues the quarterback causing him not to throw it
  • Stays blocked or coasts in run support; tackling technique needs a lot of work; consistently dips head, loses sight of targets and hurls shoulder into the runner or receiver; attacks the shins and ankles when tackling; when he does wrap up, it’s very low and typically snatches a single leg

Film

There’s a lot to like about Hughes on film. He is obviously a pretty good athlete that can run with just about anyone. He has the ability to match up with nearly any type of receiver. He reads outside releases quickly, his ‘man-turn’ is efficient. He can immediately get into the receiver’s hip pocket, run step for step with him, and use his body to lean into the receiver as he turns back to track the ball, leading to a pass deflection.

 

He has sticky feet. When he wants to plant and drive on the ball from off coverage, you get to see how much spring he has.

 

Pair the efficient footwork with his disruption skills and it makes him a versatile piece outside or in the slot.

 

While I believe at this moment his is better in man coverage, he definitely can play zone. While in off coverage he recognizes the high low route concept so he helps take away the deep corner.

 

At this point in his development, he just doesn’t trust his eyes enough. Part of this has to do with his worries about getting beat deep, while some of it is not quite understanding the game situation or three man route concept. Third and 7 here and Hughes still has to go through the process of how he should react to this flat route.

 

While it isn’t that common, his processing skills in zone coverage can cost him. He is so reactive, so quick to want to make a play, that sometimes it affects his play speed. As the ball is snapped he is in a proactive mindset; “If that WR runs the out route I am going to jump it.”  Which is the mindset you want when your CB is trapping. After a pump fake by the quarterback his body follows what his eyes and mind tell him to do, and he gives up an easy explosive play.

 

While he is in the 5’11” range, he does play bigger than that. Hughes was matched up against 6’4″ wide receiver Courtland Sutton and he did not back down. He was still strong with his strike and didn’t allow Sutton to overpower him. This kind of confidence and skill is valued around the league.

 

He makes life hell for receivers, especially if he isn’t threatened by their athletic makeup. On this play, the receiver to the top of the screen takes an outside release. Hughes gets his hands on him and just drives him out of bounds. You will see the quarterback eventually take a look to throw it to him, but he must pass him over.

 

The Memphis wide receiver is no slouch in the physical aspect of the game. Some have compared his style of play to WR Steve Smith. On this play, Miller is matched up against Hughes to the bottom of the screen. Miller jabs hard outside and gets Hughes slightly outside of his base, but as Miller transitions to align the stem of the route back inside, Hughes lands a strike to throw Miller and the timing of the play off.

 

Hughes will have his issues versus larger targets at the next level. He doesn’t appear to have the length or size to play through those types of receivers. So, if his quickness doesn’t put him in a close enough distance to strike, he will lose, specifically when taller receivers can catch it with their hands and keep it away from their body so that Hughes can’t knock it out. But with his reactionary speed, something you will see on this play, he will put himself in position to make plays here and there.

 

Those bigger targets typically win at the top of their routes versus Hughes. They win the inside release or know that the technique of the defensive play call will allow their receiver to get the inside release. Then, once they reach the apex, they can use their length to separate. While Hughes will give up these receptions from time to time, he will attempt to jar the ball loose when in striking distance.

 

But if you are trying to beat him deep, you are going to have trouble doing so, regardless of whether you get the inside release. And you’re especially going to have trouble doing it if Hughes just saw the same play on the prior snap. The USF receiver had trouble hauling in the pass on a similar play prior to this one. Here, Hughes plays the deep ball well. He does a good job of recovering after losing the release phase. As the ball is in the air and the receiver is trying to work his stem back outside, Hughes utilizes his left hand/arm to wedge the receiver so that Hughes can stay over the top of the route. This technique is the reason he is able to track the ball and intercept it.

 

But his biggest wart is his tackling ability. He has moments in games where, if the competition is high, he will scream downhill and show that willingness to make a tackle in run support.

 

But that is not enough on Sundays. Tackling from defensive backs is often the difference between a 3-yard gain and a 50-yard touchdown. That’s because many run concepts account for guys in the box and purposely want to pin a running back one on one with a corner.

The junior has made a living as a returner. Between his time at UNC and UCF, Hughes has 24 kick returns for 760 yards and two touchdowns. He also has pitched in 14 punt returns for 233 yards and one touchdown. His offensive mindset with the ball in his hand is still evident.

Courtesy of JABO

 

Overall

While Mike Hughes has a very good skillset, there still is room to improve. He will get by to a certain extent just relying on his natural athleticism. He has the quickness, speed and feet to mirror most receivers at the next level. His hand skills at the line of scrimmage when in press or soft press should help him become a chess piece for his new defensive coordinator if they want to stick him in the slot in certain game plans.

While I think he is above average in zone coverage, especially when it comes to reading complex route combinations, I think he also has a decent understanding of how to space them. If put into a good defense that allows him to play trap coverages or jump some routes in certain favorable down and distance situations, he can make plays with his speed.

His best fit is in a defense that plays a lot of single high looks, especially if they like to have their corners up near the line of scrimmage. This will maximize his technical skills near the line of scrimmage, and his ability to turn and run with receivers. He will also have the comfort of having a post safety he can rely on to funnel some of the inside release issues that he may encounter.

Hughes graded out as a 4.917, which is a second round grade, but I believe he gets drafted in the first round.

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