Belated Hello: Casey Hughes Comment Count

Brian January 24th, 2018 at 12:34 PM


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.


Arb lover

January 24th, 2018 at 6:41 PM ^

I saw that too. My one fear with our secondary was that they got beat (only once or twice) on all out sprints, so maybe Don wants speed in case he needs it. 

Possible returner isn't something I thought of, but it could make sense also. Better field position and possibly a TD is a good way to jumpstart a slower offense. 


January 24th, 2018 at 12:42 PM ^

I think that he could replace Josh Metellus. That guy made a ton of mistakes last year and he was hard to watch by the bowl game. But who really knows? Maybe he's Wayne Lyons.


January 24th, 2018 at 12:57 PM ^

I think Metellus was actually good last year.  He was only "bad" compared to the rest of an elite defense, and even then wasn't really that far off from the rest of the D.  If Hughes does beat out Metellus at Safety, I pray for those poor quarterbacks next year who will either be getting sacked or throwing interceptions every other play.  


January 24th, 2018 at 1:36 PM ^

Opposing QB's routinely picked on our safeties and Brandon Watson all year while avoiding LaVert Hill and David Long like the plague. There was a reason for that. 

The problem with some of the commentary here, and this is not specific to you, is that it has been so long since Michigan last won a championship that people have forgotten what championship talent looks like. I don't even know if Metellus or Kinnel are NFL free agents let alone draft picks.


January 24th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

So you're contending that championship teams require NFL talent at every single position? Maybe I'm wrong (I'm not going to take the time to look it up), but I would be shocked if any (non-Alabama) teams had NFL players at every position on even one side of the ball.


January 24th, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

Yes. List of national championship teams since 2000. Tell me where I'm wrong.

Miami, OSU, LSU, USC, Texas, Florida, LSU, Florida, Bama, Auburn, Bama, Bama, FSU, OSU, Bama, Clemson, Bama.

For reference, the 1997 Michigan national title team had 34 NFL players on it.

blue in dc

January 24th, 2018 at 3:39 PM ^

And show that every starter on each of the 16 teams actually played in the NFL, your argument will be more persuasive. I showed above you were wrong about 1997 Michigan. I suspect if you did the homework you’d discover most teams you cite had at least 1 or 2 players that did not play in the NFL.

Whole Milk

January 24th, 2018 at 4:11 PM ^

As blue in dc said, you are basically using the "I'm right unless someone shows me otherwise" approach. You asked to be proven wrong, I did. I took the team that I felt the most confident that they did not have all time NFL talent, looked it up to confirm my thoughts, and answered your question.

I have not looked at other rosters, but I would bet that Auburn is not the only one on this list that didn't have every starter play in the NFL.


January 24th, 2018 at 3:05 PM ^

Winovich - NFL Lock
Mone - non-drafted FA possible
Hurst - NFL Lock
Gary - NFL Lock
Furbush - nope
McCray - Mocking Late Round Draft Pick
Bush Jr. - NFL Lock
Hudson - imo NFL Lock
Hill - NFL Lock
Long -  NFL Lock
Mettellus - Definite chance with 2 years left to prove himself into top 3 round draft pick
Kinnel - Definite chance with 1 year left to be drafted

Solomon, Thomas, Luigi Villian, Singleton, Anthony all of the recruiting backgrounds to be top NFL draft picks as well. 




January 24th, 2018 at 3:32 PM ^

If Dymonte Thomas isn't a NFL draft pick Kinnel and Metellus sure as heck aren't either. I honestly don't know what this post is trying to prove other than it's confirming what I already said, that to be an elite team you need NFL talent everyhwere. When you have NFL talent like UM did at DL and LB and CB, you have dominant units. When you don't like they did at safety and nickel, you get exposed when you play top level teams. Seems pretty straightforward.


January 24th, 2018 at 4:01 PM ^

There is NFL talent everywhere.

Thomas wasn't a draft pick, but is hanging around the NFL. I'd say that he does have NFL talent. Not bad for a guy who only was the starting safety his Senior year and had spotty playing time the rest of the way. Kinnel accomplished that in his Junior year, Metellus as a Sophomore. I would say both have higher upsides than Thomas. 

Woods/JKP were both true freshman, but they could just as easily turn into NFLers as well. 


blue in dc

January 24th, 2018 at 3:36 PM ^

While it is consistent with the argument that most players must be nFL talent, it proves that all players do not have to be NFL talent.

Specifically -
Clint Copenhaver and Rob Swett combined for 11 of 12 starts at outside linebacker. Neither played in the NFL
On offense - Zac Adami started 12 games on the offensive line and Russell Shaw started 11 games at flanker. Neither played in the NFL


January 24th, 2018 at 2:00 PM ^

Kinnel was decent when not taking absolutely terrible angles to the ball. Metellus has significant issues with tackling, especially for a SS. It also seemed like neither were ever present to make the CB-helping, bone-jarring hit over the top that you see routinely with other safeties playing the deep zone. I know they play a ton of man coverage, but this still seems to be a big issue to me. As a matter of fact, the only time I recall seeing this all yearvwas when Kinnel got his bell rung trying to help Watson defend Haskin's third and long bomb.


January 24th, 2018 at 2:01 PM ^


Total Defense FEI #9

Total Defense S&P #10

Passing Defense S&P #3

Passing Yds per game #1

3rd Down Conversion % #1


This group returns every single player in the back 7 except the guy that was probably the #1 liability in pass defense Mccray.   




January 24th, 2018 at 2:14 PM ^

Yes, the defense put up shiny stats against shitty teams, but PSU, South Carolina, and Haskins picked them apart.

Now the schedule gets tougher and there is no Hurst in the backfield immediately after the snap. There is definitely room for improvement.


January 24th, 2018 at 10:17 PM ^

Was the reason also perhaps that Long and Hill were pretty good and therefore it makes sense to avoid them and attack safeties, who usually in every defense are worse at coverage?

Not saying I think the Safeties are studs, but there can be a reason they get picked on that doesnt just automatically make them suck. 


January 25th, 2018 at 9:46 AM ^

Think kinnel gets drafted after after his M career is over late but drafted. He is very good on special teams which is what’s needed from a depth safety. The only time I really remember him looking bad is when opposing offenses lines up in a formation that required him to cover a highly skilled slot guy 1:1. Mettelus? Who knows.


January 24th, 2018 at 1:29 PM ^

Honestly, Kinnel seemed more up-and-down throughout the year, but both were perfectly serviceable safeties.  If Hughes somehow beats out one of them, that would either mean said player noticeably regressed...somehow...or Hughes was demonstrably better.  I doubt that, but it would be a positive sign for the defense if that happened.


January 24th, 2018 at 2:20 PM ^

How exactly did I shit on him in my post about roster management?  I tried to avoid any discussion of his talent or that of the team so I didn't get sucked into a debate about whether our DBs were amazing or terrible. 

My point was that bringing in 6 new DBs next year when you return 5 starters and 6 back-ups seems like odd roster management for a team that is looking to rebound.  Maybe Hughes is amazing as a person or player and will be a great addition.  My point was that all roster spots are precious and there are probably a ton of guys who want them.  It is up to the coaches to determine how to use those spots.

I'm optimistic that the defensive coaches have a great eye for talent and I'm happy to have him aboard....I just found it odd that Harbaugh would use so many roster spots on DBs this off-season instead of targeting other positions.


January 24th, 2018 at 12:59 PM ^

Metellus was no all-conference performer, but in a hyper-aggressive defense that frequently puts it's safeties on island in coverage, he was solid in most games. What true sophomore (and first year starter) doesn't make a handful of contain-related mental mistakes? His upside far exceeds that of a good-not-great Pac-12 corner moving over to safety would be.

Remember the last time we brought in a grad transfer DB from the Pac-12? Wayne Lyons came in (with more fanfare) and expectations to win a starting job or at least be a key reserve but ended up a fringe contributor at best. For depth reasons, we can take all the competent guys we can get, and you can't teach experience so why hate this as a take if you don't know exactly where the roster numbers sit like the coaches do.