Utes starting cornerback Casey Hughes to transfer

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah defensive back Casey Hughes answers questions during the Utes' weekly press conference at the football facility press conference room in Salt Lake City Monday August 28, 2017.

Utes starting cornerback Casey Hughes announced Wednesday via Twitter that he has decided to transfer for his final season of eligibility.

Hughes, a redshirt junior who started 11 games this past season, played mostly on special teams until earning a starting spot this past season. He finished the season with two forced fumbles (both against Arizona), 35 tackles and one pass breakup.

Hughes did not play against Washington due to injury and had to leave the regular-season finale against Colorado after trying to play through injury. He did not play in the Utes’ Heart of Dallas Bowl win against West Virginia, and Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said last week that his status was uncertain for spring practice.

The resident of North Las Vegas, Nev., figured to be pushed for the starting job this coming season by returners Julian Blackmon and Jaylon Johnson.

Blackmon, a sophomore from Layton, earned second-team All Pac-12 honors and was named MVP of the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He intercepted four passes this season, including two in the bowl game.

Johnson, a four-star recruit and one of the top cornerbacks in the country coming out of high school last year, played in 12 games (two starts) before suffering an injury that required surgery before the final game of the regular season. Johnson tied for the team lead with six pass breakups and was second with seven passes defended.

“I finished my degree this past fall, and after a lot of thought, I have decided it is in my best interest to pursue a graduate transfer at another university,” Hughes wrote in his post. “I want to thank coach Whittingham, coach [Sharrieff] Shah, coach [Jordan] Hicks and the rest of the coaching staff for all they have done for me. My life has changed forever by my time as a Ute, and I will always be appreciative of everybody who has been a part of my experience.”