Washington’s Evan Hudson makes defensive switch pay off
Former tight end is using his big body as a standout at defensive tackle for No. 20 Huskies.
Seattle Times staff reporter
He came to campus as a walk-on tight end and starting pitcher. Three years later, Washington’s Evan Hudson is a starting defensive tackle on scholarship and on a tear.
Hudson said he didn’t set any expectations for himself for playing time or production heading into his first start on the defensive line Saturday against Boise State. But, from the beginning, he did expect to be a factor.
“It was great,” said Hudson, a junior from Bothell with family in attendance for the Huskies’ 38-6 rout of the Broncos. “That’s what I had kind of planned on all along. I knew that if I got in here and got a chance, I could help and contribute to the team. It’s all a mindset you have to have. You can’t just say, ‘I’m a walk-on, I’m here to be on the team.’
“Because I came here to play, not to just be on the service team.”
The switch seemed more experimental when the 6-foot-5, 277-pound Hudson shifted over from tight end to the defensive line at the start of training camp last month. Each week, he further cemented his role on defense. By the end of the month, he was in the starting lineup.
Coaches have said Hudson’s combination of size and length are the archetype of what they’re looking for in versatile defensive linemen.
“We needed him,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said.
Hudson proved to be more than just a big body filling space, too. Wilcox estimated that Hudson played 64 or 65 of the 88 snaps UW defended. And his influence went beyond a stat line that showed him with four tackles.
“He led our D-line in production,” Wilcox said. “And sometimes being productive doesn’t show as much in the stat sheet or the ‘wow’ plays, but it terms of having an impact on the game. … It’s good to have him.”
Originally a two-sport walk-on at UW — he was a right-handed pitcher for one season for the Huskies — Hudson eventually settled on football and earned a scholarship in 2011. He caught his lone touchdown pass against Stanford in 2011, and made four starts as a second tight end last season.
Now he’s a key cog in the middle of a UW defense that held Boise State to its lowest scoring output since 1997.
“I just tried to focus on my job and not do anything extra,” Hudson said. “Our defense, if everyone does their job, we’re going to be a really, really good defense.”
This week, Hudson said he’s working on improving his pass rush. The Huskies didn’t have any sacks of Boise State’s Joe Southwick and, after a bye this week, Hudson said UW will face a similar style offense against Illinois on Sept. 14.
“With that (Boise State) offense, it’s hard to get sacks because they’re getting the ball out in two seconds,” Hudson said. “So we really focused on keeping him in the pocket. … That was our main focus, to keep him in the pocket and make him beat us with his arm.”
Huskies enter polls
After the convincing victory over then-No. 19 Boise State, the Huskies entered both major polls released Tuesday.
Washington came in at No. 20 in The Associated Press Top 25 and No. 23 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
“It’s nice and obviously flattering that people think we’re a pretty good football team,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But we’ve got a lot of work to do still, as we all well know.”
Four other Pac-12 teams are ranked in this week’s AP poll: No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Stanford, No. 18 UCLA and No. 25 USC.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude