Adams: Hughes a big guy with bigger potential

When Tennessee coaches shouted "last play" at last Friday's practice, defensive tackle Montori Hughes reacted as though they said "Montori's play." He burst from his set position, plowed through a blocker and tackled the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.

It wasn't a one-play or one-day phenomenon. It was a continuation of what you saw in the spring from a 6-foot-4, 310-pound freshman, who, though mildly recruited, sometimes performs as though he is intent on becoming UT's next great defensive tackle.

That's not farfetched, according to head coach Lane Kiffin, who describes Hughes as having "superstar potential." But the description doesn't end there.

Kiffin is as familiar with Hughes' downs as his ups. While a casual practice observer might notice only Hughes' spectacular offensive disruptions, the coaches are just as attuned to the plays where he strays from his gap. "Consistency," they preach. Without it, Hughes can't stay on the field, Kiffin says.

In the best of all football worlds, I would concur. But on a team struggling to plug holes on a thin defensive front, how can you keep a player with Hughes' potential - consistent or not - off the field?

Another play comes to mind, from Saturday's scrimmage. As the offense snapped the ball from its 1-yard line, Hughes stumbled out of his stance, then quickly regained his balance and tackled the ball carrier for a safety.

You can't watch a practice without noticing No. 93. He doesn't have to make a play. He only has to make himself heard. He does that repeatedly, providing incessant chatter as he loudly challenges his defense or insults the offense.

"Sometimes, that's good," fifth-year senior offensive guard Vladimir Richard said. "Sometimes, you need to tone it down. You don't want to get known as someone who's always talking, not performing.

"He has all the ability to perform. But sometimes, if he's tired, it might not all come."

Richard really likes Hughes, and not just as a player.

"He's a great young man, fun to be around," Richard says. "Sometimes he might get you mad, but all you can do is smile, because he don't mean no harm."

In the heat of practice, Hughes isn't always so much fun if you're trying to make headway against the defense.

"When (the offense) makes a play or they say something, it gets under my skin," Hughes said. "Then, it's on."

His teammates have noticed.

"He needs to learn how to come hard every play, not just when he's mad," Richard said. "When he's upset, he's going to come like a lightning bolt. Once he gets to that level (where he's consistent), teams are not going to know what to do."

Inconsistency is hardly an unusual trait for a young player. That's one reason former UT defensive tackle John Henderson stood out as a freshman. His intensity rarely waned, and it wasn't uncommon in practice to see him chase down a ball carrier at the far end of the field.

Conversely, Henderson's former sidekick, Albert Haynesworth, treated practice as though it were a contagious disease. Yet both have made it big in the NFL. If you judge Haynesworth by his latest contract, he has made it bigger than any defensive tackle in league history.

Inconsistency aside, Hughes looks like a future All-SEC and NFL player. His obvious physical attributes make you wonder why he was overlooked in the recruiting process.

"I have no answer to that question," he said with a smile.

UT's former coaching staff didn't get interested in Hughes until late last year. When the Vols finally came calling, he was "shocked."

"I was just waiting on them," he said. "Waiting and waiting."

After all that waiting, it's no wonder he enrolled at UT in January, then went through spring drills, where he became a huge problem for the offense right away. With tackle Wes Brown limited by bad knees, Hughes often lines up alongside veteran starter Dan Williams in the middle of the line.

He might be there for a long time.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 23

OldSmokey writes:

Sounds like Hughes is going to be a beast!

ThaiVolFan writes:

Good to know that he really is going to be able to contribute right away. We will need his big presence through the stretch of this season. Good news.
GBO!

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Is that legal to tackle someone behind the line of scrimmge?

Didn't see much of that in the old 2-9.

Especially on 3rd and 6.

DCFloridaGatorz69 writes:

in response to stonercomedy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Are you the kind of person that shouts "your momma!" at random strangers for no apparent reason?

txvolsfan writes:

in response to stonercomedy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

just like a stoner, living waaaaaayyyyy in the past. puff, puff and pass over this site please

deadheadvol writes:

in response to stonercomedy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

wake up stoner, its 2009, no one cares about last year, Go Vols

xvolx writes:

off. linemen suppose to be experienced. If a frosh is beating them up, time to be concerned.

ibvolman writes:

Ignore the stoner. He obviously feels the need for attention. Ignore him, and he will go elsewhere to find it.

VolFanInAtl writes:

You gotta love a big loud trash talkin' defensive tackle.

cmoore7 writes:

The Pounceys will piss him off real quick. Hope he is ready for them.

UCFgradVOLatHEART writes:

Has John Adams been kidnapped? This is another story this week giving the Vols praise. The only thing missing was the usual sucking up to the Gators. I am convinced John has a crush on Urban and Tebow. How many times do you think he has sent his resume to Gainesville?

UrbanCryer writes:

miss st-3
ut-34

footballtime writes:

in response to UCFgradVOLatHEART:

Has John Adams been kidnapped? This is another story this week giving the Vols praise. The only thing missing was the usual sucking up to the Gators. I am convinced John has a crush on Urban and Tebow. How many times do you think he has sent his resume to Gainesville?

forget resumes what about the nude self portraits of himself he sends them

footballtime writes:

but like the coach said he needs to keep at it and be consistent...notice Adams lays off real articles from players who will have nothing to do with him

johnlg00 writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good points, but most coaches would rather try to tame a player with natural aggressiveness than have to instill desire in a lazy one. And even talented, aggressive freshmen often lack consistency. IMHO, we got a guy who looks like he can contribute, even if he was not one of those "multi-star" recruits everybody wanted.

orangetothebone writes:

in response to UCFgradVOLatHEART:

Has John Adams been kidnapped? This is another story this week giving the Vols praise. The only thing missing was the usual sucking up to the Gators. I am convinced John has a crush on Urban and Tebow. How many times do you think he has sent his resume to Gainesville?

Obviously he’s on vac and has a ghost writer sitting in

mbradshaw1#655539 writes:

in response to stonercomedy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Put your Timothy Leary trip of the month card and the joint down. This is 2009, not to worry we will get you caught up on the last 40 years lol. Peace out! It must have been the Manson anniversary.

OrangeMagic writes:

in response to BolivarBob:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Utah 22 Wyoming 21, when was that?

last year Utah beat Wyoming 40-7 in Wyoming

Joevolsxtra writes:

Does John Adams remind anyone else of Mr. Smithers from the Simpsons?

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Hughes definetly a player that slipped through the cracks.Good size; speed and a mean streak and he's only a freshman...Would like to hear some good news about the linebackers though.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to FreeTDTN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I heard the same thing from Dupree who is seldom worng.

PlaidinOrangeandWhite writes:

Any news on Ben Martin? Haven't heard much about him lately.

givehim6 writes:

Hope next year we get another one or two like Hughes for the D line.

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