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32 DAYS TO (TENTATIVE) 2020 KICKOFF: Justin Hughes

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In which BracketCat counts down the 32nd day until the 2020 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State linebacker Justin Hughes.

#32 Justin Hughes
Elijah Sullivan missed his running mate at linebacker, Justin Hughes (32), last year. With any luck and barring further injury (or pandemic-related cancellations), they’ll have one last season together in the defensive backfield.
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Disclaimer: As the 2020 current football season still is technically set to proceed as planned in Manhattan on Sept. 5, we will continue the Countdown as normal for now.

#32 Justin Hughes

Redshirt Senior | 6-1 | 229 lbs. | Tucker, Georgia
Justin Hughes
Justin Hughes
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Justin Lorenz Hughes (b. Jan. 3, 1996) is an athletic linebacker who had a great junior season, but was derailed in Chris Klieman’s first year with an injury. He now will try to reclaim his starting job in 2020.

Hughes was the first, but certainly not last, prospect that former offensive coordinator Andre Coleman pulled out of the Deep South/Georgia pipeline to come to K-State.

Hughes originally enrolled at Kansas State in 2014 as a grayshirt, redshirted in 2015 and did not see any game action in 2016. He started for the White team in the 2016 spring game and collected one tackle, then played for the Purple team in the 2018 spring game.

Hughes finally saw action in six games in 2017 as both a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He recorded four tackles, including a career-high three stops against Central Arkansas, and also made a tackle against UCLA in the Cactus Bowl.

Hughes’ breakthrough came in 2018 after Elijah Sullivan was injured, clearing the way for him to start each of the last seven contests. (Ironically, Sullivan returned the favor in 2019.)

Hughes, who played in 11 total games, finished third on the team with 56 tackles to go along with seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His seven tackles for loss ranked third on the team, while he was fourth in the Big 12 with his two forced fumbles.

Hughes came off the bench during the Texas game to record six tackles and a tackle for loss before starting the rest of the season. He set a career high with 11 tackles and forced a fumble at Baylor, then had eight tackles each against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.

Hughes set a career high with three tackles for loss against Kansas, and also forced a fumble against the Jayhawks and recovered another one against Texas Tech.

Unfortunately, he had to sit out 2019 due to a season-ending injury sustained in spring practices, but thankfully, he earned a medical hardship and a do-over of his senior year.

Hughes earned his bachelor’s degree in communication studies in December 2018.

He played under head coach Bryan Lamar for Tucker High School in Georgia, where he helped the Tigers to earn a 14-1 record and a trip to the state championship game.

Hughes was named a first-team all-state honoree in 2013 by the Georgia Sportswriters, while he was an All-DeKalb County pick by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and rated as the nation’s 70th-best outside linebacker by ESPN.

He was selected to play in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game after totaling more than 180 tackles over his junior and senior seasons.

Hughes was a high school teammate of both his running mate, Sullivan, and former K-State cornerback Duke Shelley.