This one slipped through the cracks as Ace and I discussed the greatest arthropods in the history of baking: Michigan's picked up a frankly bizarre grad transfer, Casey Hughes. Hughes isn't bizarre. Hughes is probably a nice young man. But the circumstances that would take a starting cornerback for Utah and deposit him on a Michigan roster that returns three starter-quality CBs and Ambry Thomas are hard to fathom.
And it does appear that Hughes was one of Utah's preferred starting CBs when healthy. Opponent blogs usually have a clear—and sometimes jaundiced—eye towards guys who have just left the roster, and this was Block U's take on Hughes's spot:
After playing mostly on special teams to start his career, Hughes, one of the fastest players on the team, earned a starting cornerback role in 2017 following the departures of four starters in the secondary. Hughes, a North Las Vegas, Nev. native, recorded 35 tackles and one pass breakup and had two forced fumbles against the Arizona Wildcats that helped Utah secure that win in Tucson, Ariz.
Injuries limited Hughes to end the 2017 season. He missed the game against the Washington Huskies and had to leave the game against the Colorado Buffaloes due to injury, which also kept him out of the Heart of Dallas Bowl win over the West Virginia Mountaineers. Hughes also would have likely been facing stiff competition for playing time as a senior from Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon, a second-team All-Pac-12 selection and Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP.
Hughes was part of an excellent secondary; Utah finished 14th in pass defense to S&P+ despite a pass rush that ranked 94th nationally. His stats are pretty nondescript, but that's often a good thing with cornerbacks. A lack of PBUs is maybe a concern. Michigan's CBs had some pretty absurd tackle/PBU ratios this year:
- Lavert Hill: 20 tackles, 7 PBUs
- David Long: 17.5 tackles, 6 PBUs
- Brandon Watson: 15.5 tackles, 5 PBUs
- Hughes: 30 tackles, 1 PBU.
Also it does not appear that Pro Football Focus or NFL draftniks had Hughes high on their radar. It's safe to assume that Long and Hill are, or will be, so it's hard to see much playing time open up at the spot Hughes started at last year.
Safety? I'm dubious. Michigan's safety play was okay to good last year and returns both starters and a couple of freshmen who got playing time. For Hughes to get playing time there he'd have to beat those guys out. His best bet might be if Michigan is looking for a slot fade specialist. If he is one, great. Maybe you can see one in here:
But the name that comes most readily to mind is Wayne Lyons.