Q&A with TCU's Jerry Hughes 

April, 8, 2009
TCU's Jerry Hughes was one of the biggest revelations of the 2008 season. He led the nation with 15 sacks and also had six forced fumbles. Not bad for a guy who came to college as a running back.

Over the weekend I had a chance to visit with Hughes for a Q&A segment:

Bruce Feldman: What prompted your breakout season? Was it simply getting the chance to play?

Hughes: Yeah, probably so. I always had confidence in my ability to perform. I'd always believed that I'd go out in practice and play to the best of my abilities everyday and figured once I got the chance to play, all of that stuff would pay off.

Feldman: TCU has had a lot of success turning high school running backs into productive d-linemen. What did they tell you when you were getting recruited?

Hughes: They had told me I would have a chance to try some running back, but then when I got up here, they gave me the number 98. And so I knew something was going on because you don't see many running backs with that number.

Feldman: Did you lobby for at least a chance to play some running back?

Hughes: Nah. I wanted to do whatever it took to help the team win. Coming from a high school where we didn't have many opportunities to have a winning season, and knowing TCU had a winning tradition, it didn't matter to me where they played me.

Feldman: Which other schools recruited you coming out of high school?

Hughes: Iowa State, SMU, North Texas and Arizona State. A&M didn't offer. I guess they ran out of scholarships.

Feldman: Why do you think more schools weren't interested?

Hughes: I think mainly because I came onto the scene late. My junior year I was injured so they didn't get to see me a lot. I had a big senior year but I guess they do a lot of recruiting off junior film.

Feldman: So you didn't play any defense at all before this?

Hughes: Not really. It was all running back or some receiver.

Feldman: In your first two years at TCU, do you study the older defensive ends and think, 'Ok, that is going to be me soon?' or how did you see your evolution as a defensive lineman playing out?

Hughes: Basically, my freshman year I wasn't too involved in the defense because I was just learning how to play the position. I had [former TCU DE] Chase Ortiz sitting next to me, and then I was watching him and Tommy Blake in practice everyday. You can't help but take notice [of] how these guys worked different techniques and so I felt really blessed to have that situation.

Feldman: People saw your four-sack performance against performance against BYU on a Thursday night as your coming-out party and that came against an o-line that had a pretty big rep going into that game. How do you prepare for each matchup?

Hughes: Every week when we sit down and watch film, I have a notebook, and I write down what that tackle does. Then I just work on them that week in practice. So for example, if I see that he kicks real hard, then I try and work on a counter move for it to set him up different ways.

Feldman: Did you leave any sacks on the field in that game?

Hughes: I actually did. I missed two because I took bad angles.

Feldman: How did that game change the way teams played you?

Hughes: I had more double teams. I started to see more max protections and guys coming in and cutting me.

Feldman: With all of the NFL draft talk that is out there now, do wonder about where they'd want to play you, 3-4 outside linebacker, or are you big enough to be a 4-3 end?

Hughes: Nah. That's nowhere near my mind right now. I'm just getting ready for two-a-days and focused on getting this team better.

• With Ole Miss needing to replace their best player from 2008 (DT Peria Jerry), Jerrell Powe is having a great spring, as David Brandt writes: