Previously: Last year's profiles. S J'Marick Woods, S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, S Brad Hawkins, CB Ambry Thomas, CB Benjamin St-Juste, LB Drew Singleton, LB Jordan Anthony, LB Josh Ross, DE Kwity Paye, DE Luiji Vilain,
DE Corey Malone-Hatcher, DE Deron Irving-Bey, DT Donovan Jeter, DT Phil Paea.
|Toledo, OH – 6'5", 295|
|Scout||4*, #273 overall
|Rivals||4*, #240 overall
#8 SDE, #9 OH
#30 DE, #14 OH
|24/7||4*, #109 overall
#8 DT, #2 OH
|Other Suitors||MSU, UL, Neb, UK, PSU, Iowa|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Committed to UK real early and then bailed, as one does.|
In late August, James Hudson was a composite three star Kentucky decommit picking between Michigan and Michigan State without much other interest from top-end schools. In the days leading up to his commitment there was a lot of conflicting information about whether Hudson was even a "take" for Michigan, and your correspondent was… well, he kind of wanted to keep the spot open for guys with more whizbang.
Sometimes your correspondent is dumb. Hudson was indeed a take; Michigan took him, and then he blew up.
They tried to triple team James Hudson.... pic.twitter.com/9SheJOOXE9
— Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) August 27, 2016
Hudson, who played both defensive end and offensive tackle, had 80 tackles, including 34 for a loss, and eight sacks as a senior. He helped lead Central Catholic to a 13-1 record with the lone loss coming in a state semifinal.
I've seen a lot of silly high school stats. 34 TFLs as a (mostly) 3-4 DE is way out there, man. His senior film above explains a lot. That is a very large man running through and around people. When I watch tape I'm not looking for technique. I'm looking for guys who shouldn't be able to move like that. Hudson shouldn't be able to move like that. And yet.
Senior year Hudson was a new man. Evaluations from before his senior year questioned his ability to stick on D despite being, like, Kentucky-related:
There is a question about explosion off the football, and that is probably why Kentucky sees him as an inside defensive player. People also think he will eventually have to move to the offensive line because he might be a tweener on defense.
Josh Helmholdt and Rivals liked him enough ("great football frame … huge kid but he's very athletic at that size") to put him in their top 250 despite Hudson's tendency to fade out of games:
"He absolutely took over the [Lima] game in the fourth quarter," Helmholdt said. "He had something like five tackles, three of them for loss, in that quarter alone. He totally dominated and collapsed the right side of the offensive line on almost every play. He completely took that offense out of what they were doing. But the two quarters before that he was a ghost.
"I’ve seen that every time I’ve gone to see him. Is that a motor thing? Is that, he just hasn’t learned how to dominate yet? Both of those are possibilities."
His high school coach more or less agreed with that sentiment until he was imbued with Senior Leadership. His take on Signing Day:
"He has a high football I.Q. and great motor. He went from having a lot of potential and showing flashes of greatness, to consistently showing it every night and every play."
Ohio scouting service MSR Ohio:
Seeing him for the first time last Saturday, my first comment – “How much weight have you lost?” Later, I found out that he has re-distributed his weight. He sure looks good. … Really athletic. Strong. Good bender. Good initial quickness. Stays with his block on offense. On the DL he has the same initial quickness. Uses his hands to separate from the blocker. … Like his basketball feet. Like his big powerful athletic frame.
The sites noticed. At least a couple did. Scout bumped him from a generic three star into their top 300 thanks to his "fantastic," "explosive," and "athletic" senior play. 24/7 nearly put him in their top 100 and named him their "senior film stud" because he proved he's "one of the nation's best big-bodied defensive linemen." ESPN didn't move him because ESPN, and Rivals didn't move him because no camps.
Part of this is Hudson's growth. He was initially listed at around 270, causing multiple evaluations to utter the dread word "tweener." Scout only made him a DT in the immediate aftermath of his Michigan commit; Rivals and ESPN never moved him from their DE rankings. Now 297 and headed for another 15 pounds of clubbin' meat, there's no question where he ends up. Michigan's current plan is to deploy him as a three tech.
In retrospect it's hard to see why this wasn't obvious from the drop. ESPN's evaluation virtually screams DT:
…'tweener at this stage, but good height with well-built frame and adequate-to-very good bulk … excellent playing strength and can be inconsistent but displays good first-step. Stout and physical defender that demonstrates he can fire out low and uncoil …. can hold ground one-on-one and at times against current competition even knock blockers back on their heels. When he shoots hands displays upper body strength to press and disengage, but can be quite inconsistent … Power is his strength at this stage and will likely be greatest asset … capable of delivering a big pop when engaging blockers …tools to develop into tough presence especially against the run.
Best as I can figure, his tenure at DE in high school and his vague plausibility as a college edge rusher caused the DE evals, and possibly some of the trepidation. Burst for a DE and burst for a DT are different things.
Now firmly projected to the interior, Hudson has the look of a very high upside player. Brandon Brown caught him early in his senior year:
He's long limbed, extremely quick off the line, and very light and bouncy on his feet for being nearly 300 pounds. He's ridiculously strong compared to other high schoolers and actually has pretty solid technique when it comes to rips, swims, and other hand-placement techniques on the defensive line.
Just a month earlier his coach called him "lean for his size"(!):
"He still has a lot of room to grow. He’s very lean for his size. He’s very explosive, which if he adds more size and muscle, which he will at Michigan, he’s going to be tough for people to deal with inside. That wingspan, that height, the explosiveness and athleticism at his size, he’s a rare combination."
After his senior season 24/7 marveled at his "new level of explosiveness and speed" and asserted he'd "turned himself into a rare combination of size and speed at a premium position"; Rivals asserted that "his physical characteristics are elite" and that "his combination of size, burst, quickness, and strength is rare"; their Kentucky site called him an "ideal DE in a 3-4" because he's "more athletic than defensive tackles and a lot bigger and more powerful than most defensive ends."
Hudson's already producing and appears to have a lot of upside left to explore. Despite being a consensus four star he looks like one of the more underrated guys in the class.
FWIW, Hudson played a lot of OT in high school and when he first popped up on the radar he was looked as more of an OL prospect. People were still throwing in the possibility he'd be an OL when he committed. With his senior year blowup and Michigan's depth chart the chance that becomes relevant is remote.
Etc.: Harbaugh story? Harbaugh story:
"Me and Coach Harbaugh, the day that he offered me, we were sitting down in his office, me and my mom, and we were talking about football stuff," Hudson said. "Talking about the depth chart and stuff like that. And he started doing math problems when he was talking to my mom! Me and my mom were looking at each other, like, 'What is he doing?!'
"He stopped, in the middle of him doing this, in his problem, [and asked], 'Am I talking too much?' We were just like, 'Go on Coach! You're fine. We've got all the time in the world.'"
Why Willie Henry? Henry was a beef machine three-tech who was at his best when he deployed his bonkers strength to bench press dudes off him. The ESPN evaluation above could be Henry word for word, give or take some technique concerns. Henry arrived much rawer than it appears Hudson will and had far fewer recruiting accolades. He redshirted and only got to an All Big Ten level as a redshirt junior; Hudson should be a year ahead of his pace. Henry did have some pass rush chops, with 6.5 sacks in his final year, and Henry could get there. He's not Mo Hurst in this department, but he'll offer something.
Other comparables include Wormley, again, and Alan Branch.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Despite the consensus four star status there's still a lot of range in there. Hudson didn't attend a single camp and didn't get to an All Star game, and he blew up as a senior. I mean… DE evaluations. Guy was healthy and pretty well scouted but the shape of his recruitment is one where the scouting reports don't always match the numbers.
Variance: Low-plus. Already 300 pounds and able to move like a much smaller man. Some slight trepidation that he has not played on the interior yet and this could prove a bugaboo.
Ceiling: Very high. Hudson is likely still underrated despite a couple of significant senior year re-ranks. He has a combination of upfield explosion and raw power that you don't see very often.
General Excitement Level: Very high. What can I say? If your last name is Hudson I'm all about your football skills.
Projection: Will fight with Dwumfour and others to back up Hurst this year and replace him in 2018. We've heard a lot of good things about Dwumfour and I think the other three-tech guys in this class are going to be useful players; I also think Hudson's the best bet to win the job as a true sophomore, whereupon his career will look a lot like Henry's.
Another possibility: he moves to nose tackle. Michigan has more 3-tech types in this class than NT types and might want the depth. If they're going to split snaps down the middle for their four interior linemen Solomon/Hudson at nose might be their most effective configuration in a post-Mone world. That'll depend on guys like Dwumfour, Jeter, and Irving-Bey coming through.