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Thursday, August 18, 2011
Indiana's Hughes fulfills need for speed

By Adam Rittenberg

Kofi Hughes doesn't hesitate when asked what element he brings to Indiana's receiving corps.

"My breakaway speed," the sophomore recently told ESPN.com. "When I get the ball, I'm not running for the first down or the extra yard. I'm running to score every time."

Hughes' speed could come in handy for the Hoosiers, who once again look well stocked at the receiver position but need more touchdowns from the group. Indiana lost top touchdown scorer Tandon Doss (7 TDs in 2010) to the NFL draft, and while No. 1 returnee Damarlo Belcher led the Big Ten with 78 receptions in 2010, only four went for touchdowns.

Kofi Hughes
Kofi Hughes wants to be next in the line of All-Big Ten wideouts from Indiana.
Belcher is expected to anchor IU's passing attack this year along with Duwyce Wilson, who started four games as a redshirt freshman last fall and recorded 32 receptions for 488 yards. Hughes, one of two true freshmen to play in 2010, provides another exciting option.

"My role’s just as important as Damarlo's or Duwyce's or anybody else who's out there on the field," said Hughes, who recorded seven catches last fall and blossomed during spring practice. "When it's my time to get the ball, I need to be a playmaker. I've always seen myself as a playmaker."

Hughes made plenty of plays as a quarterback for Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. As a senior in 2009, he accounted for 42 touchdowns -- 19 passing, 22 rushing, 1 receiving -- and was named Gatorade Player of the Year in the state.

While he loved calling signals, Hughes knew his future would be at receiver. He credits Doss for working with him on route running and other areas last year.

"I was his little project," Hughes said.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hughes thinks he still must improve the way he practices and polish his game at what is still a relatively new position. With an unproven quarterback moving into a starting role -- Dusty Kiel, Edward Wright-Baker and Tre Roberson continue to compete -- Indiana needs its receivers to once again be a strength.

The Hoosiers have produced first-team All-Big Ten wideouts in three of the past four seasons with Doss (2009, 2010) and James Hardy (2007).

"We get down to business," Hughes said. "The receivers at Indiana have spoken for themselves in the past five years or so. Being a receiver at IU, there's a lot that comes with that."

Hughes is ready to embrace it and continue the tradition this season.