A few days ago I wrote about the communication issues that plagued MSU’s secondary at times last season, and how that’s being addressed this spring. The point man when it comes to communication is junior strong safety Jay Hughes, who defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said is the one who gets people lined up and makes the calls.
That’s a role that Hughes has accepted, even though it’s a difficult one.
“When I was younger, it was Wade Bonner that was the verbal guy,” Hughes said following Monday’s practice. “That’s all it is, man. If I’m verbal and I’m talking, it’s contagious, and it helps those guys focus a little bit more.”
With the amount of talent MSU has in the secondary, Hughes feels that’s the missing piece to improving.
“That’s really all it boils down to, is just communicating, knowing what your assignment is, knowing what the guy’s doing next to you,” he said.
The lone senior in the secondary is free safety Nickoe Whitley, but he’s more the silent assassin type (in case you need a reminder). With three starting DBs gone from last season, it falls on Hughes to become the vocal leader. It’s rather new to him at this level, although he believes playing some quarterback in high school was good training.
Hughes was on the field plenty last year and drew starts in two of MSU’s final four games, making 32 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss and two pass break-ups. He admitted to being intimidated into silence sometimes because of the veteran presence around him.
“I was like, these are NFL guys, what makes me think they’re going to listen to me? But at times they actually did. I corrected them on a lot of things, so it kind of helped me grow a little bit,” Hughes said.
The role Hughes will play this season will be made even more challenging by the changes being applied by Collins, who was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason. The Bulldogs will, by all accounts, be more aggressive on defense, and the safeties will do more blitzing than in the past.
“It’s more exciting to play defense,” Hughes said. “We’re not doing the same thing. We’re not going to the middle of the field every play, we’re not playing too high every play. We’re blitzing, we’re coming down, we’re playing man-to-man. It’s a whole lot of stuff.”