|Juwuane Hughes of Hanford High has been the most wanted Bullpup on the recruiting trail, as he holds nine different NCAA Division I scholarship offers (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).|
Juwuane Hughes likes to play in the sand, but the beach isn’t the preferred destination spot for Hanford High School’s top college football prospect.
Hughes, who’s known in Kings County for his quick feet and for holding nine NCAA Division I scholarship offers finds a sand area on the track – normally used for long jump events - to strengthen his feet.
He credits the sand workouts for helping create his fleet footed technique.
“I like getting that resistance,” Hughes said. “As a defensive back, your feet have to be moving perfectly. So I get a lot of agility in by working out in the sand.”
Hughes adds that he got the sand idea from scrolling through different workouts that were getting posted on social networking sites, particularly Twitter.
“I see a lot of videos. I like to look around and see what college guys are doing for their workouts and I try to copy it,” Hughes said. “Their workouts are now viral. If I see something I like, I’m going to add it to my workout.”
Under the Neighbor Bowl lights during the fall, Hughes triples as a hard-hitting cornerback, ball chasing safety and six-point scoring threat on offense.
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Hughes assails screen passes by reading where the football is going then strikes his shoulders and helmet into the intended wide receiver. In zone and man coverage, Hughes shadows his wide receiver like a fast moving cloud then turns his hips to steal the football from the offense.
“I’m a ball hawk. I want the ball. I want the big plays,” Hughes said. “I’m going to do what I have to do to make the big plays and give it my all.”
Hughes led the Bullpups with seven interceptions and 23 pass deflections. While most colleges are recruiting him to play on defense, Hughes is just as astounding on offense. One play shined a light on his toughness and breakaway speed.
At the 1:10 mark of his Hudl film, Hughes shows his slippery wrecking ball side on a screen pass. He removes himself from the first defender who was trying to lasso him down, maintains his balance, slips by one arm tackle, keeps his footing through another diving defender, then plows his shoulder and flattens two more Hanford West defenders en route to a 57-yard touchdown pass.
Screen passes are the plays that showcase Hughes’ run-after-the-catch strength. He resembles a young Steve Smith on those receptions; who was a master of turning the short pass into a long touchdown scamper during his Carolina Panther days.
Hughes’ production on the field have made him one of the most sought-after players in the Central Valley. Colorado State, Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State, Wyoming, Idaho, Eastern Washington, San Diego State and New Mexico have all extended a scholarship pledge to him. Hughes said three Mountain West schools are all over him.
“The ones that are recruiting me the hardest are Colorado State, Nevada and Fresno State,” Hughes said. “All of them talk to me about being a defensive back, but a few have talked to me about being a slot wide receiver plus return kicks.”
Hughes said that he plans on dissecting his choice list to three or five schools by the time his senior year starts at Hanford, which is in the middle of August.
Once the school year starts up and fall practices begin for the Bullpups, Hughes and his teammates realize that the expectations are higher than ever.
Last season, Hughes was one of the cornerstones for Hanford High’s Central Section Division III championship run. The Bullpups pounced through their 2014-15 schedule and finished 12-1, culminating in their 35-14 rout of Madera.
After being in championship euphoria, Hughes said he knows that this year every DIII team in the section wants to dethrone the Bullpups.
“We know it’s not going to be the same road. Some teams slept on us in a way,” Hughes said. “They weren’t ready for us and we surprised some teams. This year, everybody knows who we are. We’re coming back as the DIII champs and we got a lot of returners. We’re going to get everyone’s best game.”
Shockingly, even with a highlight reel that shows an accelerating trail blazer on grass and a work ethic in the sand that has helped increase his speed, Hughes said that he doesn’t classify himself as the fastest player on the field.
“I’m not the fastest player. As it is, I’m a defensive back and DB’s need to be fast on the field. So I’m working on getting faster,” Hughes said. “Every day, there’s some many things that I need to improve on.”