2016 Recruiting: Khaleke Hudson

Submitted by Brian on April 13th, 2016 at 4:05 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus.

       
Mckeesport, PA – 5'11", 205
       

20151106-JA-HS-Football-001

Scout 4*, #273 overall
#24 S
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#26 S, #10 PA
ESPN 3*, NR overall,
#40 S, #13 PA
24/7 4*, #313 overall
#15 S, #11 PA
Other Suitors PSU, Pitt, UCLA, VT, BC, MSU, Neb
YMRMFSPA Mortal Jabrill Peppers
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from me.
Notes Twitter. Pronounced "Khaleek".

Film

Senior:

Ace put together a Semper Fi highlight reel:

Safeties go first in this series and Khaleke Hudson just committed January 27th, so this isn't going to be much different than Hudson's Hello post. I even authored that one since Ace was getting buried, so there won't even be a slight variation on takes here. The song is the same.

However, since Khaleke Hudson's song is hyperviolence it's worth revisiting. If you've followed this blog, like, at all over the past few months you're aware that we are slightly more enthused about Hudson than we are about Rashan Gary. Hudson is a short-area burst player with terrific balance, evil intent, missile-like attributes, and the smarts to be in the right place to make good on the former qualities. I've found no better description than this from opposing coach John Ruane:

"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."

(Ruane offered that quote to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when Hudson won their player of the year award—Steve Breaston is a previous recipient.) Local scout Joe Butler comes in second:

“He's a vicious hitter, a knockdown hitter,” Metro Index scouting director Joe Butler said. “He can play right away. He's ready. He's got everything going for him, all the physical tools and ball skills to make plays.”

At Mckeesport Hudson did everything possible for a player his size, playing RB, H-back, S, LB, KR, PR, a little WR, and even occasionally flicking passes on trick plays. His highlight film above is his collected effort in all of those departments plus his blocking, which appears to be a never-ending series of rim-rattling dunks on people. Highlight films can lie, but once they hit a tightly-edited 15 minutes they are far less likely to. And on top of that we saw him in the Semper Fi game, where he collected seven tackles, two forced fumbles, and four PBUs in about half a game after ripping up practice on both sides of the ball. Hudson is a FOOTBALL (period) PLAYER (period), as they say. Also he does rad tricks.

Hudson got my attention when I turned on the Semper Fi game, but if I'd been paying attention in the run-up to it I would have noticed that he was getting an inordinate amount of praise from the people covering it. 247 has a thing where they pick five guys on each side of the ball on each day of an all-star game's practice; on day two Hudson featured on both lists. On defense he looked "very fluid in coverage"; on offense his performance at running back was dubbed "special" by the coaches. Meanwhile he was the top guy on defense on D on day one and oh hey look Peppers resemblance:

With his compact physique, Hudson looks like the hybrid linebacker/strong safeties that are starting to become very popular as teams move to more sub-package schemes to combat spread attacks.

247 was not alone, as Scout dubbed him the best safety and the best running back at the game:

Khaleke Hudson was the best overall player on the East squad. He was the best safety, and also the best running back.

…as a running back he had a knack for finding the holes with fantastic vision, then using his explosive burst to get through it in a hurry. He had a comfort to him at running back and could feel his way in and out of spots and holes.

Hudson is a tough, physical safety who hits hard. … He's also a plus athlete who runs well and looks very comfortable playing in space.

Scout also brought the Peppers resemblance to the table…

…a tough, physical safety who loves to hit. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Hudson has a strong, powerful build and is a prototype downhill safety who can fly off the hash in run support.

Hudson football played his way to nearly 3000 football rushing yards and 50 football touchdowns at 10 yards a pop over the last two years of his high school career while playing full-time on defense, where he is likely better. If this reminds you of a certain someone, well, yeah. Hudson:

"I know Michigan has said that I could play both sides. They actually think I could be very similar to Jabrill Peppers."

There is a 5'8" safety who runs a 4.9 in Kansas somewhere who was told the same thing by Michigan, but with Hudson it's easy to believe they mean it.

So why did it take that breakout Semper Fi performance to get on the radar with recruiting sites? I don't know. His junior tape is another impressive 15 minutes; Mckeesport is a big school just outside of Pittsburgh and so should have a solid competition level. But for whatever reason nobody was particularly taken with Hudson until very late. Penn State infamously turned down at least one commitment from him and possibly up to three. (This site projects that PSU fans will feel exactly the same way about Hudson as Michigan fans feel about Anthony Zettel, down to the fact that it's a bad memory about a previous coach.)

Michigan didn't even offer until November, although that was because DJ Durkin was skeptical:

A couple of Michigan's staff members were in love with Hudson's junior film and were trying to get Hudson an offer earlier in the process. … as Hudson's senior film started to surface in October, those assistants were able to finally convince D.J. Durkin to sign off on a scholarship offer.

Don Brown, on the other hand, had BC throw its hat in the ring long before that.

Rivals moved to a new system that seems to have dropped various posts, but it looks like the only scouting material they had on him was from a camp just before his junior year, when Josh Helmholdt noted he "was one of the most physically impressive" DBs at a 7-on-7 camp and that his break on the football was "definitely sufficient" but could improve. From there it's radio silence until Tim Sullivan interviewed Rivals's Mid-Atlantic guy about Hudson, he said all the best things

“The way he moves on the field is so impressive. … His athleticism is fantastic, he’s a great form tackler, but he also has really good speed, he’s just a violent player. …

“His explosiveness if going to help him blitz. His strength will help him fend off would-be blockers. In coverage, he’s going to be able to keep up with guys. Being that nickel safety, he’s not going to have to guard the biggest players, especially against running backs and underneath routes, he’s ideally suited to cover. He can give big hits coming across the middle.”

…and then justified Rivals's generic three-star ranking by citing his lack of height, which was "not major Division I material." I dunno, man. Everyone has him at 5'11", and even if that's slightly generous I'd bet he's more or less exactly the same size as Peppers. And the dude just noted that his college position is not one that will emphasize height. So that's fine. As far as reasons to downplay a recruit go, I like ones that make no sense.

In a similar vein, I mentioned in the Metellus post that ESPN's take on Hudson would engender some discussion of the particular merits of their system, because the scouting report is rapture

…reads the play quickly and has an excellent burst to get to the spot. Very good at reading and reacting. …has the speed and quicks to cover man, especially TEs or RBs. He is very good at his zone cover responsibilities. He opens to the ball, reads into the QB and has a rapid break to the football in flight. … very quick out of his stance/pedal and flies all over the secondary and into the line of scrimmage with speed and positioning. Aggressive and physical, he is a solid tackler.

…and the ranking is that of a guy who got left behind. This was even more acute in the immediate aftermath of his commit, when Hudson was the #86(!) safety. (Somebody got in a quick re-rank just before Signing Day.) Evaluations that seem to have little relation to the ensuing rankings are not uncommon at ESPN, as it seems like they tend to fire and forget.

On the one hand, they're open-minded enough to look at Metellus seriously. On the other, sometimes Khaleke Hudson ends up ranked below guys going to Louisiana-Lafayette. I like the fact that they're very different from other rating services but you have to take the good with the bad—ESPN is mostly focused on the kind of kids who will make televised announcements and the fidelity of their rankings drops off considerably once you get past ESPN300 types. On the other hand, they tell you why they like or don't like any particular player.

What is not in doubt is that Hudson is an archetypical Harbaugh guy. A multiple-position star who is seemingly designed by man and God to punish people is exactly the kind of player Harbaugh would carve from stone if that was required of him. (Meanwhile, Hugh Freeze sits next to an untouched rock complaining that he is a father.) Lorenz:

There is a certain style of player that fits the mold you think of when you think about the type of player Jim Harbaugh wants to recruit at Michigan; Hudson to us is one of those guys in this class for them.

Brown's arrival complicates our projections for Hudson slightly since his main comparison point, Peppers, is now playing a lot of linebacker and some other stuff. How that plays out during the season is still unknown—the guess here is that it's not too different from his 2015 nickel role. If so, then Hudson slides in neatly there. He will also likely get a hard look at the more conventional safety spots. He is a more natural fit as a hybrid space player, no matter what positional label you want to slap on him.

And then there's the other side of the ball. While it's a stone-cold guarantee Jim Harbaugh flips Hudson to offense in spring practice at some point during his career, the state of the roster should mean he ends up a defensive player. Michigan has plenty of tailbacks and a worrying dearth of safeties in 2017. If Michigan moves a couple wide receivers and they catch on and everyone's really excited about them then maybe it could happen. More likely is that starting safety Hudson is a candidate to get a few offensive touches a game, a la Peppers.

I might not be averse to that. Hudson's running back film above is terrific. He's got a lot of Mike Hart in him: great balance, ability to make the Madden back juke, pile-pushing power. Consistent praise for his skills

Excellent balance when running the ball . . . Runs behind his pads . . . Good speed . . . Quick feet . . . Good lateral quickness . . . Accelerates quickly out of cuts . . . Willing and capable blocker

…and his ability to play both the A-back and B-back in Mckeesport's flexbone (along with various defensive positions) suggest he'd be able to hack it in college even if it's not a full-time thing.

Etc.: Jourdan Lewis is impressed. Committed on the same day Denard Robinson Cook was born NO PRESSURE.

Why Mortal Jabrill Peppers? I mean, he's not Peppers. But other than not being Peppers, he's basically Peppers.

If forced to pick someone other than Peppers I'd go with former Iowa safety Bob Sanders, who carved out a near-decade in the NFL despite being 5'8" because he was the deadliest oompa-loompa.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy, but a big split. Couple of sites paid close attention to Semper Fi and bumped him. Rivals's reasoning for not doing so doesn't make sense; ESPN's ranking doesn't match their scouting.

Variance: Low. At a solid 205 already, Hudson is more or less college-sized for a HSP. He appears to be able to play a ton of positions at the same time, so he's got a high football IQ. And he is very underrated.

Ceiling: High. I mean, he's not Peppers because he can't go play boundary corner like it's nothing, but I don't see why he can't just-about-replicate Peppers as a nickel, and that's a damn good player.

General Excitement Level: Irrational. I see no way Hudson isn't a major contributor. He would have been the sleeper of the year if Scout and 247 hadn't given him four stars. It's better this way since Hudson is so obvious I wouldn't be telling you much.

Projection: He'll play this year. Michigan is probably losing their entire secondary and must blood the new generation. In addition, Hudson is obviously going to play a ton of special teams since squat missiles with nothing but nuclear destruction on their minds are useful there. He should start spotting Peppers after a few games and give him a regular rest by midseason.

If Peppers leaves for the NFL, which I think most people expect, Hudson should to slot into the hybrid space player role more or less seamlessly.

Will he play offense? Probably not for a bit. Michigan has a lot of options at tailback now. Safety and HSP are much thinner. Hudson looks like a terrific back but probably isn't the kind of athlete who will demand that you play him both ways. Maybe if he hits the top end of his potential you talk about it when he's an upperclassman.

Comments

Mr Miggle

April 14th, 2016 at 7:25 AM ^

and they had arguably the best DC in the conference. Was that because Shoop knew he was leaving too?

Hudson's lack of big time offers reflects a lack of imagination from coaches. Not just coaches, recruiting sites too. They see a really good player who lacks something to make him an ideal fit at one position and don't know how to use him. Harbaugh has no such shortcoming.

robpollard

April 13th, 2016 at 4:48 PM ^

"He'll play this year. Michigan is probably losing their entire secondary and must blood the new generation."

I'm excited about this player, but that sounds kind of gross.

Blue_Blooded92

April 13th, 2016 at 5:24 PM ^

Isn't Tyree Kinnel an HSP as well? I thought he was going to fill Peppers' role when he (likely) departs for the NFL. Wouldn't one of them, or someone, have to play the safety position more like Dymonte Thomas/Jarrod Wilson?

Or could you role with two HSPs (Kinnel and Hudson), a free safety (??), two boundary CBs (Stribling and Watson), and then six in the box? Someone put my brain on the right track.

BursleysFinest

April 13th, 2016 at 5:42 PM ^

HSP was the projection for Kinnel, but with our depth chart and how good he's looked there in practice, Kinnel probably plays Safety.

As far as Hudson, depends on how many viable safeties we find by 2017 (and whether the HSP will even continue under Don Brown, it could be that HSP/3rd linebacker's role ends up changing year to year depending on the bodies we have at the time to play the spot). 

CoverZero

April 14th, 2016 at 4:11 AM ^

Khaleke is my favorite player in the class (other than Gary).  Carlo Kemp also showed major signs of being an excellent player, in the spring game and is a close 2nd. 

 He is an amazingly smooth athlete with excellent instincts for the safety position.  He plays the ball well, takes great angles and uses his hands extremely effectly to defend the pass or to get off of blocks.  In my humble opinion he is the best strong safety (pure strong safety and not some type of hybrid) recruit that Michigan has had in many years. 

PopeLando

April 13th, 2016 at 5:47 PM ^

We need to start rating our S/NB/HSP types on a "% Jabrill Peppers" scale.

Is this guy 90% Peppers? 95% Peppers? Are our other recruits at least 75% Peppers? These questions need answers!

Firstbase

April 13th, 2016 at 6:59 PM ^

...but I assumed Peppers would stick around longer than that. Depending on how this year plays out, I still think he could come back for another year a la Jake Butt.

WolvinLA2

April 13th, 2016 at 9:17 PM ^

Yeah, that is kind of naive. He's not like Jake Butt. Butt was a very productive but incomplete player last year who had the chance to go pro, but can up his stock my spending one more year improving his game and upping his stock. He also isn't a can't-miss prospect so he might need his degree 4 years from now.

Peppers is elite. He's in another class from a lot of the country. That's not a good comparison.

bacon

April 13th, 2016 at 7:29 PM ^

I'm starting to think with Harbaugh's recruiting that a 3/4 star guy will be the typical sleeper in the future. Lots more 5 stars ahead at the top end.

Wolfman

April 14th, 2016 at 1:41 AM ^

Does sound ludicrous, upon reading initially that Durkin knew he was gone and thought it somehow possible that no one else would notice the potential of this young man. Damn, maybe someone is on site that can tell me who we were looking at that could have been the reason for a delayed offer. Even that I cannot imagine. When you see someone with  his skills, you offer immediately. Position(s) to be determined later.

With all the fuss about Fournette, deservededly so, as to being the best h.s. prospect in a decade, am I the only one genuinely happy we had to settle for who most  felt was the no. 2 prospect? In addition to Peppers being about 5, 6 years earlier than most in regard to incoming recuits being compared to i.e., current NFLers or former collegiate stars, I believe Jabrill and Khaleke might very well be the two best RBs we recruited with no intention of playing them there.

However, based on what Peppers has done in his limited time, a damn near duplicate, less the immortal status coming along in 3 years and it all somehow makes sense. Most of you probably alreay watched the video on this  young man, but for some reason this was the first I've seen of him. Damn, what a pleasant surprise.

and pdgoblue25, I think most of us feel the same in regard to Jabrill's early exit. When a player of his caliber comes along with a general understanding he will be leaving after 3 years, I think it's natural to  feel we were somehow cheated by being allowed to watch him for what will be slightly over 2 years.

Somehow I feel this young man is also going to give us a hell of a lot to talk about for the next few years.

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