It’s not often a Heisman candidate is replaced with no appreciable drop-off, but it basically happened when junior Khaleke Hudson stepped into the starting viper position last season. He hasn’t taken a punt back to the house like Peppers (although if the mistakes continue for DPJ then he’ll get more opportunities), but as far as being a do-it-all defensive lynchpin, Hudson has had it on lock-down since 2017.
Hudson’s numbers aren’t gaudy yet this season, but they were downright ridiculous last year: nine PBUs (team leader), two FF, third on the team in tackles, more tackles at or behind the LOS than any other back-seven player, only three missed tackles and sixth among linebackers nation-wide in QB pressures (24).
So how is a player like that getting even better?
“He’s trying to do a better job leading,” linebackers coach Al Washington said during media availability Wednesday. “He’s coming on. I’m very pleased with Khaleke and really impressed with his ability to lead.”
Leadership was the first thing Washington mentioned when asked what’s different about Hudson now compared to spring, and said that he’s more vocal but normally leads by example.
“Khaleke has done a very good job,” Washington said. “Yesterday he took the bulk of the reps, just rolling. He just grinded through it. That’s the type of leadership that I think a lot of younger guys see that impacts things more than what he says. He’s not a talkative guy unless you get to know him. He’s himself, a lead by example guy. He’s still an impactful person personality-wise.”
— Michigan Sports News (@SportsGuyMI) September 8, 2018
Washington, who joined the football staff in January, also thinks Hudson’s instincts are improving, a scary thought for opposing O-coordinators.
“Anticipating things is another area he’s better,” Washington said. “If you were to ask him, he’s still pushing to get to where he’s on another level. Last week he made incremental steps, and he’s going to continue to do that. That’s what we’re doing right now. I’m excited about this week. He’s had a great week of prep so far.”
Another record-breaking performance might be outside the realm of possibility (Minnesota inexplicably left him unblocked all game), but Michigan coaches can rest assured the viper position is taken care of for now by a burgeoning leader.