Khaleke Hudson broke fully into the spotlight last season for the Michigan football team.
Taking over at VIPER for fan favorite Jabrill Peppers, Hudson made third-team All-Big Ten, won a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award and even tied the NCAA record for tackles for loss in a game with eight against Minnesota. Hudson finished the season with 83 tackles and two interceptions.
This season, Hudson, now a junior, has solidified himself as one of the top talents on a defense that returned nearly all of its starters.
Last week against Western Michigan, as the 19th-ranked Wolverines dominated from start to finish, Hudson made his mark.
Midway through the second quarter with Michigan up 28-0 and the Broncos barely clinging to life, Western Michigan faced 4th-and-1. Its quarterback John Wassink faked a handoff and took off to the left.
Hudson shed a block, planted his feet and upended Wassink at the line of scrimmage, forcing a change of possession and dashing any hopes the Broncos had left.
It was one of Hudson’s six tackles in the game, and while that isn’t an eye-popping number, it does represent Hudson’s solid play.
“He’s coming on,” said linebackers coach Al Washington on Wednesday. “Khaleke has done a very good job. I thought last week he made incremental steps, and he’s gonna continue to do that. But I’m very pleased with Khaleke, and I’m really impressed with his ability to lead. You know, he’s trying to do a better job leading. But I’m very excited about this week for him.”
The leadership facet of Hudson’s game is an interesting one. As stated, this is a defense with tons of experience, which breeds leadership.
Hudson’s leadership abilities can be categorized by what he does, not necessarily what he says.
According to Washington, Hudson took a majority of the snaps this week in practice, a testament to his willingness to work despite what he’s already proven.
“By his actions, I mean, you take yesterday, he took the bulk of the reps,” Washington said. “(He’s) just rolling. And he didn’t balk, didn’t do anything, you know, he just grinded through it. And that’s the type of leadership that I think a lot of younger guys see impacting more than what he says.”
That side of things also shows itself on special teams. As a freshman, Hudson saw almost all of his playing time on special teams, tying for the team-lead with two blocked punts.
Since then, he’s spent nearly every defensive snap at VIPER, and it would be understandable if the coaches or even Hudson himself wanted to give him his rest on special teams plays.
But just last week, against the Broncos, Hudson lined up as Western Michigan set to punt the ball away. He ripped through the line at the snap, along with four other Wolverines, split Western Michigan’s personal protectors and blocked the third punt of his career.
Washington sees that play and the fourth down stop as signs of what is to come for Hudson this season.
“Those things piggyback on each other and start to snowball,” Washington said. “It’ll continue. We’ve still got work to do, but he’s trending. His head is down.”