Navarro Coach Thinks WVU Signee Is A ‘Diamond In The Rough’
Navarro College head football coach Scott Parr knows many members of West Virginia’s new staff, having worked with Neal Brown, Chad Scott, Sean Reagan and Matt Moore when they were all together at Texas Tech earlier this decade. Parr was an offensive quality control coach for Tommy Tuberville’s Red Raiders, while the current Mountaineers were each assistant coaches in Lubbock during that time.
Thus when Moore stopped by Navarro this spring to inquire about potential recruits, Parr was already familiar with what the WVU offensive coordinator/offensive line coach was looking for.
Parr pointed Moore toward John Hughes, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman.
“John is good fundamentally,” explained Parr of Hughes, who played a lot of guard last year for Navarro but projects as a tackle at WVU. “Pass pro is his strength. He can play either tackle, left or right. He carries his weight well. His sense of timing for someone his age is as good as I’ve seen. He’s got a mean streak to him, and plays tough. He’s a 4.0 student, and is a real competitor.”
Those positives, as well as the ability to leave the junior college ranks right away and play for a Division I school this fall, made Hughes a commodity that piqued WVU’s interest.
“From what I was told, West Virginia had immediate needs in its offensive line, and when you start looking at offensive line guys who are available now, can come out now and be a Big 12 player, that list is limited,” noted Parr.
“Matt Moore was here the first week he could visit,” added Parr, who is in his first year as Navarro’s head coach, though he previously spent three seasons (2015-17) as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator. “They did their due diligence on John. They didn’t offer him right away. They did a hard evaluation on him, took about a week and a half. They did a phenomenal job of locating him, and then making sure he was a guy they wanted.”
Eventually Moore and the Mountaineers did offer Hughes a scholarship, and he signed a letter of intent with WVU earlier this week.
“I have worked with Matt Moore, and I know how well he develops offensive linemen,” stated Parr. “John is a perfect fit for Matt. A lot of times the success of a player has to do with the fit with the position coach, the fit with the coordinator and the fit with the head coach. John fits the style of offense that Neal Brown and Matt Moore play. Neal is one of the top player developmental coaches in America. For John to be able to go into that situation, it’s awesome for him.”
Navarro College is a juco powerhouse located in Corsicana, Texas, which is 70 miles southeast of Dallas. Hughes grew up on the north side of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in Carrolton, where he attended Creekview High School.
He is a bit of a unique junior college prospect in that he was a full qualifier coming out of high school. Because he was originally a qualifier, Hughes is eligible to move immediately to a Division I school despite spending just one year in the juco ranks.
“His high school team was 0-11 his senior year,” explained Parr. “If he would have been at program that had won more games – say Allen or Southlake Carroll or wherever – he probably would not have been overlooked coming out of high school. He did receive some offers from Division I colleges in high school, but he thought he was better than the offers he got. So, he turned those down and bet on himself by going to junior college to be re-recruited.”
One year at Navarro, in which he played in all 11 games for the 6-5 Bulldogs, earned Hughes a scholarship to WVU. He still has three years of college eligibility remaining, and he has four years left in which to use them, so he could even be redshirted by the Mountaineers, if need be.
“Like any young player, he’s going to need a time to adjust to the next level,” said Parr of Hughes. “If he can redshirt and use the year to add some strength, that would benefit him. But he does have the ability to step in and play next year, if that’s needed.”
As long as WVU stays healthy in its offensive front, Hughes doesn’t necessary need to compete for a starting job at West Virginia from day one. The Mountaineers have a pair of fifth-year seniors in Colton McKivitz and Kelby Wickline as their two starting tackles. Behind that pair, though, WVU gets young and thin rapidly. Third-year sophomore Tyler Thurmond and redshirt freshman Junior Uzebu are the only other scholarship offensive tackles currently on the roster though incoming freshmen Donovan Beaver, Parker Moorer and Brandon Yates will be added to the mix this summer. Now fold in Hughes, with his four-to-play-three eligibility status.
Parr admitted that Hughes is not yet a finished product.
“John has to go into that building with the mindset of taking his game to a higher level,” the Navarro coach explained.
“The great thing about John is he knows his strengths and weaknesses. He’s a smart kid. He’s said it; his point of attack as a run blocker needs to improve and he needs to gain strength. Those are his weaknesses right now. He’s well aware of them, but he’s not far off. He definitely has the ability to improve in those areas.”
The son of Bill and Sandy Hughes may have grown up in the heart of Texas, 1,217 miles from Morgantown, but his family has some previous familiarity with the Mountaineer football program. A native of Saddle Brook, N.J., and product of Bergen Catholic High School, Bill Hughes was a 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive lineman who was a three-year starter at the University of Maryland (1985-87), where he was 3-0 against WVU.
John’s older brother Larry (6-6, 310 lbs.) also was a college offensive lineman. He originally attended Kansas (2015-17), where he was 0-3 against the Mountaineers, before moving to SMU as a graduate transfer in 2018. Larry started seven games at right guard and five at right tackle for the Mustangs as a senior this past season.
Now the youngest of the Hughes boys is making his way to the Division I level, and his junior college coach believes he has excellent potential.
“I think West Virginia got a diamond-in-the-rough prospect,” said Parr. “Hopefully John is going to make a difference for West Virginia in the future and will do his part in helping the Mountaineers win the amount of games they want to win.”