Husky defensive tackle Andrew Hudson weighs 249 pounds, and he often gives up 50 pounds to opponents across the line.
Reconstructing Washington’s defense figured to take some creativity.
And so, as the Huskies near the 2012 opener hoping to rebound from one of the worst defensive seasons in school history, they do so with a defensive tackle who has spent most of his life feeling a little undersized.
To the average person, Andrew Hudson is far from small, listed at 6 feet 3, 249 pounds. But now that he’s often playing tackle in new coordinator Justin Wilcox’s defensive schemes, Hudson knows he’ll find himself battling offensive linemen who often weigh 50 pounds more.
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Not to worry, he says. In high school, Hudson often wrestled in the 215-pound division, though he weighed far less, only to emerge as one of the best in California as a senior.
“It’s fun,” Hudson said of being smaller than the guy he’s competing against. “Maybe it’s that little man’s syndrome, just going against those big guys.”
Hudson says those words with a ready smile and cheery demeanor that belie the intense battles he fights daily.
The smile also reveals a wide gap in his teeth that has earned him the nickname “Strahan,” after former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who had a similar grin.
“It’s been that way since high school,” he said. “It’s cool. It’s not a bad thing.”
That high school was Redlands East Valley in Redlands, Calif., where he was teammates with former Huskies Ronnie Fouch and Chris Polk.
Fouch and Polk helped acquaint Hudson with UW, though he says it wasn’t really the deciding factor in his signing with the Huskies over Arizona, Oregon State and Utah.
“There was just something about Washington,” said Hudson, whose mother lived in the Seattle area as a child and still has relatives here. “It just sounded good — Husky. And, it was an up-and-coming program and coach (Steve) Sarkisian. That was the biggest part of my decision.”
When he signed with UW in 2010 at a listed weight of 214 pounds, an ESPN scouting report said that if he bulked up a little he might be able to play defensive end, which is exactly what UW coaches had in mind.
After a redshirt season in 2010, Hudson indeed bulked up and became a player the Huskies couldn’t keep off the field toward the end of the season. He had 1.5 sacks against Washington State and a sack and a forced fumble of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl. Hudson finished the season with 3.5 sacks, tied for second on the team, despite minimal playing time early.
The firing of Nick Holt as defensive coordinator and hiring of Wilcox, though, meant some new roles. Wilcox’s schemes include ample uses of 3-4 looks, which can often call for a rushing end and a linebacker flanking three down linemen.
But instead of having Hudson contend for those outside roles, the Huskies decided Hudson might be a good fit inside, especially if he added a bit more weight.
“He’s a really strong guy, he’s up to 250, and he plays with amazing effort, reminiscent of Daniel Te’o-Nesheim,” Sarkisian said, referring to UW’s career sack leader . “(Hudson’s) a guy that just goes as hard as he can every single snap, does things right. And his effort allows him to continually make plays that maybe most guys don’t make with that size.”
Sarkisian said that Hudson’s wrestling experience also helps.
“He’s an extremely strong young man, so he’s able to use that strength,” Sarkisian said. “He was a tremendous wrestler in high school, so he understands leverage and pad level and he uses all of that to his advantage.”
Says Hudson of the two sports: “Either way, it’s just playing. You can’t let size matter. One thing coach always get us on is effort, attitude and toughness, and that’s all from the heart. So I feel comfortable down there, and I take the challenge.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.