Texas Longhorns: Naashon Hughes

Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 40 Naashon Hughes
Redshirt freshman linebacker


Recruitment rewind: A three-star linebacker from nearby Harker Heights, Texas, Hughes initially joined the Longhorns' 2013 class on the agreement that he would grayshirt and defer enrollment to the winter of his freshman year. He stuck by that pledge even when Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, LSU, Baylor and South Carolina extended full scholarship offers, because he and teammate Darius James were going to Texas no matter what. During his December official visit, after a strong senior season, Longhorns coach Mack Brown informed Hughes he'd been bumped up to a full scholarship.

Career so far: Hughes redshirted as a freshman and is checking in these days at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds. He's bulked up 20 pounds since the start of his senior year, and he showed in the spring game that he hasn't lost any speed. Hughes worked with the No. 2 defense as as a pass-rushing outside linebacker and recorded four tackles.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Hughes is a unique athlete, a defender with size, speed and plenty of room to keep growing. Texas has lots of linebackers, but not many like him who can play on the edge and even in some nickel packages. If the defensive scheme calls for it, Hughes could develop a niche job this season as a situational hybrid 'backer and work his way toward a larger role while backing up Peter Jinkens.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Even if he doesn't find a fit in the defense in his debut season, Hughes figures to be a special teams contributor, and potentially a pretty good one. Texas has few more young players built like Hughes -- Edwin Freeman and Erik Huhn -- who could compete with him for snaps, but right now he'd have a solid lead over both.

Future expectations: Hughes was an underrated take out of high school who's poised to become an underrated contributor this season. If he stays healthy and continues to develop, you're going to hear a lot more from Hughes a year from now. Texas has a bunch of veterans in its linebacker room, but the lineup is fairly wide-open when you start looking ahead to 2016. That means Hughes has two years to break out if he wants one of those spots.
AUSTIN, Texas -- We continue this week's five to watch series with underclassmen who could take on important roles for the Longhorns in 2014. We'll exclude offensive lineman Kent Perkins, who would definitely make this list, because he made yesterday's list of key missing parts.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Bluiett
John Rivera/Icon SMICaleb Bluiett will be another athletic pass-rusher on Texas' defensive line.
DE Caleb Bluiett

Why put Bluiett here at No. 1 when he's not going to start? Because he reminded everyone in the Orange-White game why he's going to play a lot this fall.

The redshirt sophomore was disruptive off the edge in the spring game, tying for the team led with eight tackles while adding two TFLs and a pass breakup for the No. 2 defense. And with Jackson Jeffcoat and top backup Reggie Wilson gone, Bluiett will have to chip in.

He arrived in Austin an intriguing athlete, capable of playing tight end or along the defensive line. He bounced around between those duties throughout the 2013 season, flashed against Texas Tech once he settled in on defense and got to start against Oregon.

Bluiett has put on at least 30 pounds since joining the program and filled out into a really well-built end with intriguing tools. If he keeps coming along, he'll make life a lot easier for first-time starter Shiro Davis and the rest of this line.

WR Jacorey Warrick

Coaches and teammates call him by his nickname, "Petey," and it's a name you heard a lot during spring ball.

Warrick, a sophomore who played sparingly last year and didn't record a reception, has a chance to catch foes by surprise in the slot this fall. He overcame a torn meniscus suffered during his senior season at Houston Cypress Falls and was one of only a few true freshmen to see the field. Now it's time for an expanded role.

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound wideout enters Year 2 as one of the fastest players on the team at his position. He'll be pushed by fellow second-year receivers Montrel Meander and Jake Oliver (all three should contribute this season) and incoming freshmen like Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe, but Warrick is a sharp route-runner who should get snaps in four-wide sets.

CB Bryson Echols

Lots of big-time former Texas defensive backs made their hay early with their special teams play. Last year, it was Echols who started making a name for himself on that front.

And not always in good ways, of course, with the few roughing the punter penalties Echols collected. But he did end up leading the Longhorns in special teams tackles with 10 on the year, and the DeSoto product can be one tough customer.

Where he fits into Texas' plans for 2014 remains to be seen, with Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas slated to start at corner, but you need nickel backs in the Big 12 who can cover and tackle in space. As the Texas staff sorts through which pieces can make this defense complete, Echols' help in the secondary could make a difference.

Then again, it's entirely possible that by the end of the 2014 season, we're talking a lot more about redshirt freshman Antwuan Davis. He was good enough to play last year, but Mack Brown wisely opted to preserve his redshirt. A confident, aggressive corner with excellent speed, he was the real deal as a recruit and might be poised for a breakout.

LB Naashon Hughes

Hughes opened some eyes in the spring game with his play off the edge for the No. 2 defense. Depending on how Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford construct this defense, he could find himself fitting into a specialty role going forward.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sanders, Naashon Hughes
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsNaashon Hughes (40) impressed Texas' new coaching staff this spring.
The redshirt freshman from Harker Heights proved with his senior year of high school ball he deserved a full scholarship, and not the planned grayshirt. He brings speed and athleticism in a 6-4, 231-pound package, and is the kind of linebacker who can rush from the outside and get the job done in coverage.

Texas' overwhelming surplus of linebackers might mean a year on the bench for Hughes, unless more injuries strike that group, but his time will come.

DB Chevoski Collins

If you want a sleeper who could come out of nowhere on defense and make a difference, look at Collins and fellow safety Adrian Colbert.

Unless another underclassman like John Bonney or Erik Huhn rises up, Colbert and Collins seem likely to take over as backup safeties behind the typically inconsistent duo of Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner. Collins, a skilled athlete from Livingston could play in several spots in this secondary and brings lots of confidence for his age.

The redshirt freshman worked with the No. 2 defense in the spring game and still has some growing to do, but file that name away for down the road. He'll get his chance.

Meet the Freshmen: OL Darius James

July, 18, 2013
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Darius James was the most highly touted member of Texas’ 2013 class, but he arrived in Austin this month with a considerable chip on his shoulder.

The nation’s No. 17 overall prospect from Killeen (Texas) Harker Heights is hungry to prove he deserved that acclaim after missing nearly his entire senior season with a broken left foot.

With his best friend Naashon Hughes by his side, James has his eyes on the prize: He wants to start from day one, and he wants to win a national title.

HornsNation: Your career as a Texas Longhorn is about to begin. How does that feel?

[+] EnlargeDarius James
Max Olson/ESPNLonghorns signee Darius James was rated the No. 1 prospect in the state of Texas in the Class of 2013.
Darius James: It’s so surreal. It’s pretty crazy. The more it gets closer, the more nervous I get. Everybody is telling you to get hyped for college and how everyone in college is so much faster and bigger. You don’t know how you match up to that. You’re ready for that, but it’s still a little crazy.

HN: You’ve been hearing for a long time that you’ll play right away when you get to Texas. Do you feel ready for that challenge?

James: I feel like I’m ready for anything. But there’s also the fact that you’re playing with seniors who are four or five years older than you. I’m just going to go in there scared and pissed off.

HN: You spent this spring having to get back in shape following your injury. How did that go?

James: The spring was hell. It was pretty crazy. It was a lot of vigorous work and running and tires and weights. I’ve been going to a trainer and he’s been helping me get my weight down. I went from 360 to now I’m like 329 pounds.

HN: How do you feel when you look back on missing so much of your senior season? Are there mixed emotions?

James: Oh yes, very mixed emotions. I feel like if I would’ve played this year, I would’ve been one of the best out there. But it’s in the past. You can’t change anything in the past. I’m just ready to go out there and try to be the best player in college.

(Read full post)

Three-star outside linebacker Naashon Hughes (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) was comfortable with his decision.

Early on in his recruitment, Hughes decided to take Texas’ offer of a grayshirt to be near his brother, Camrhon Hughes, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle and best friend Darius James, a fellow 2013 commit.

[+] EnlargeNaashon Hughes
Max Olson/ESPNThree-star prospect Naashon Hughes said he likes playing both outside linebacker and safety.
Other schools tried to sway Hughes -- he also had offers from Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and South Carolina -- but he wanted to be a Longhorn even if it meant he’d have to sit out the 2013 season and enroll at Texas in January 2014.

Hughes’ patience paid off when he was awarded a full ride by Texas coach Mack Brown during breakfast at Brown’s house on the weekend of Dec. 7 while on an official visit.

With all of his worries subsided, Hughes turned his focus toward becoming the best player he could be in his last few months at Harker Heights. Now that time has come to an end, and he’s ready to start his career.

HornsNation: What most excites you about the journey you are about to embark on?

Naashon Hughes: Just getting started with football actually. Just getting back to working out and everything. I miss it a lot. A lot. It just feels like a longer break but really I’m just switching schools.

HN: What have you been doing to stay in shape since signing day?

Hughes: I’ve been working out with a trainer in Kileen at like 6 a.m. We do bench, single Bulgarian split squats, alligator walks, hang cleans, power cleans, everything cleans. We switch it up everyday.

HN: Is it tough to wake up that early and workout when you know it is summer time and your friends are out having fun?

Hughes: It started off hard but since I’ve been been doing it for so long it’s not that hard. But at the beginning it was pretty tough.

HN: Have you set any goals for your freshman season?

Hughes: I just want to work as hard as I can so I can try and play. I’m just trying to work hard and earn my spot.

HN: There was talk during your recruitment that you could play either outside linebacker or safety. Where do you think you’ll end up?

Hughes: Kind of in that outside linebacker position. I actually prefer that and safety about the same.

HN: What do you like about outside linebacker so much?

Hughes: You can get a little bit of the offensive linemen but you also get the running backs and receivers as well. Defensive linemen, the majority of the time, deal with linemen. Safeties mostly deal with receivers. But that "SAM" position gets a little bit of both.

HN: Have you put on any weight this summer?

Hughes: I have. I’m up 10 pounds to 223 and am 6-foot-4 .

HN: What has your brother told you about what to expect and how to handle yourself?

Hughes: He basically told me to work hard and earn my spot. He told me in whatever I do just work as hard as I can and my time would come.

HN: Now, Camrhon tore his ACL playing in a pickup basketball game around this time last year. How is he now?

Hughes: He is doing good. They cleared him to play and everything. Now he is just working out and getting his leg stronger so he can actually play at full speed.

HN: Will you play any basketball this summer?

Hughes: I’ll probably still play a little bit because I am the only one that has played in my family. But I think Camerhon is definitely done. I’ll play a little bit.

HN: You should probably tell everyone you are playing against to take it easy when guarding you, right?

Hughes: Definitely.

Texas poised to take big 2014 class 

February, 14, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas A&M was the talk of the state in 2013 with its 32-man recruiting class. Don’t be shocked if Texas comes close to those numbers with its 2014 class.

As always, it’s a matter of math. Texas, by rule, can sign no more than 50 recruits in any two-year period. The Longhorns inked 15 this year, so 35 is the absolute maximum for 2014.

Texas isn’t going for 35 this year. Its 2013 team will feature 15 seniors if Jordan Hicks is granted his medical redshirt. A full class of 25 signees is likely. But don’t rule out the possibility of 30.

Horns Snapshot: LB Naashon Hughes 

January, 28, 2013
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson is breaking down every commitment in the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Outside linebacker Naashon Hughes, Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights | 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Committed: Feb. 28, 2012

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All-America game roundup: UT commits 

January, 7, 2013
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Texas was as well represented as ever in the nation’s biggest postseason all-star games this weekend. Of the Longhorns’ 13 verbal commits, nine were selected to suit up for one last game before beginning their college careers.

Seven went to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, though linebacker Deoundrei Davis didn’t play due to his torn ACL. Top-ranked commit Darius James shined at the Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., and his high school teammate Naashon Hughes went to the Semper Fidelis All-America Game in Los Angeles.

Here’s a rundown of how the future Longhorns looked in their respective games:

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Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:

  • The latest on Campbell
  • Race for 2014 S Adams getting tougher

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Juco OLB Campbell still undecided 

December, 18, 2012
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Editor's note: This story was updated on Wednesday following Hutchinson Community College's decision to retract its release announcing De'Vondre Campbell's decision.

Despite reports to the contrary on Tuesday night, De'Vondre Campbell has not decommitted from Tennessee or committed to Texas.

A release put out by the school on its official website announced that the Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College three-star outside linebacker had signed with Texas on the eve of junior college signing day. Hutchinson has since retracted that release and removed it from its website.

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Q&A: Naashon Hughes talks scholarship 

December, 18, 2012
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Outside linebacker Naashon Hughes (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) was prepared to grayshirt to stay with Texas and be near his brother, Camrhon Hughes, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle, and best friend Darius James, a fellow 2013 commitment.

He understood that he would have had to sit out the 2013 season and enroll at Texas in January 2014, essentially missing out on his true freshman year.

So when he and most of Texas’ 2013 commitments collectively took their official visits the weekend of Dec. 7, he was just looking to spend time with them and soak up the fun. It could have been the last time he saw all of them together for a while.

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Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson will answer a question about the Longhorns.

This week's question: Texas has seen Ricky Seals-Jones, Daeshon Hall, Kyle Hicks and now Durham Smythe decommit from the 2013 class. Who is the one recruit Texas can't afford to lose before signing day?

William Wilkerson: There are several choices here but I’m going with ESPN 150 DB Antwuan Davis because of Texas’ struggles recruiting the secondary in this class.

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Naashon Hughes lands full scholarship 

December, 9, 2012
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Naashon Hughes put his faith in Texas in February. More than nine months later it paid off.

The three-star linebacker commit from Harker Heights, Texas, got some good news during a breakfast with Longhorns coach Mack Brown and the rest of the UT pledges this weekend.

“They told me I have a full offer now,” Hughes said. “It was great news, and I wasn’t expecting it really. When they told me, I was happy.”

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What if ... Diaz is replaced as DC? 

December, 7, 2012
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What if Manny Diaz is replaced as Texas’ defensive coordinator after the Alamo Bowl?

Diaz is a young, energetic, inventive defensive coordinator who led the top defense in the Big 12 in his first season with Texas, as the Longhorns ranked first in the conference in total defense, rushing defense and pass defense.

But he suffered through a drastic sophomore slump in Austin that saw Texas finish as the Big 12's worst rush defense and give up 33.9 points per game, fifth-most in the conference.

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Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:

  • Texas team banquet visitors list
  • UT leaders for McEvoy?

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Texas misses out on top S Marcell Harris 

November, 29, 2012
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For the second straight year Texas gave a valiant effort in its recruitment of one of the country’s top out of state safeties but ended up with its hat being left on the table.

Last year the Longhorns were one of the key suitors for Landon Collins, who infamously chose Alabama over LSU at the Under Armour All-American Game, much to the chagrin of his mother.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Harris
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comESPN 150 safety Marcell Harris picked the Gators on Thursday.
This year, ESPN 150 safety Marcell Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) chose Florida over Texas, Florida State and Oklahoma.

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