Khaleke Hudson talks about taking over the Viper position in Michigan's defense.
Ann Arbor — No one at Michigan is asking Khaleke Hudson to be Jabrill Peppers.
Hudson has embraced that notion as he has prepared to take over the Viper spot, a hybrid linebacker/safety position that Peppers played last season. The sophomore has avoided thinking he has to fill Peppers’ shoes. After all, Peppers was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, a Heisman Trophy finalist and winner of the Paul Hornung award as the most versatile player in college football.
“I just want to play my game, be the best Khaleke I can be,” Hudson said this week. “That’s all.”
But that’s not really all. Hudson has distinguished himself since spring practice and has brought noted skills to playing Viper.
“Violence. Aggression. Hammerhead,” linebacker coach Chris Partridge said recently of Hudson. “He’s a guy that just loves contact. I think that people feed off that, too. He’s become very well rounded as a player, so he’s going to be very enjoyable to watch.”
Josh Metellus played Viper in the Orange Bowl when Peppers realized he was too injured to play. But defensive coordinator Don Brown indicated in the spring that Hudson and Jordan Glasgow would practice at viper and Metellus focused on safety.
Hudson said he feels comfortable with the position now.
“Toward the end of the season when we kind of knew (Peppers) was going to leave for the NFL, it came across my mind that I might want to play Viper because it might be a good position for me. I feel like I know it very well now. I still go back and forth with Josh, get reps at Rover and Viper, but this is starting to be a good position for me.
“It’s real fun. You’re able to play deep safety in the box, and I’m able to blitz off the edge. You’re able to do a lot of things. I really like everything about it.”
s he continues to get more comfortable playing Viper, Hudson said he has occasionally looked at film of Peppers just to see technique he might be able to pick up. And now that he’s in the second year in Brown’s defense, he has a better knowledge of that playbook and what’s expected and that has allowed him to get to the ball faster.
“I’m just taking it all in, just doing what coach Brown tells me to do, just going through the process and trusting everything,” Hudson said. “I’m hoping everything falls into place.”