August 20, 2002
TALLAHASSEE - Despite his nickname, "Black Ice," 6-3, 269-pound Florida State middle linebacker Jerel Hudson hardly qualifies as undetectable. A potential hazzard? To ball-carriers, yes. Hard to spot? Hardly. He's the ACC's biggest linebacker, and larger than many of the league's interior defensive linemen.
Undetected, however, would describe the fifth-year senior's playing career to this point. Buried behind three-year starter Bradley Jennings, Hudson has had limited opportunities, mostly in mop-up defensive action. His greatest contributions have come as the frighteningly large wedge-breaker on FSU's kickoff coverage team.
After patiently waiting his turn, "Ice" finally has earned a break-through opportunity as a starter and defensive signal-caller for the third-ranked Seminoles. He did it despite taxing the coaching staff's patience, as his weight ballooned to 292 pounds in the spring.
"We told him, 'If you're not under 270, we're not even going to fool with you,'" said FSU linebacker coach Joe Kines, who has raved about Hudson's progress during two-a-day drills. "He's probably the best signal-caller we've had in a long time. He's smart. He knows where people are supposed to be, and he gets them there. One time before the ball was snapped, he lined four people up. That's a heck of a burden on somebody."
Not long ago, some viewed Hudson as a starter in the middle - between standouts Kendyll Pope and Michael Boulware - and a burden the Seminoles might not be able to overcome. FSU fans remember him lumbering after Georgia Tech tailback Joe Burns, who turned a pass in the flat into a 60-yard gain that set up the Yellow Jackets' go-ahead score shortly before the half in last season's home finale. The blown assignment earned Hudson a bad rap.
"(Georgia Tech) ran that play about four or five times," Kines said. "When he makes the play, nobody knows. The one time he got behind it and got outran, the whole world thinks he can't cover. Actually, he's one of the best cover guys we've got."
Hudson did show promise, racking up a career-high 12 tackles against the Yellow Jackets in his first start. He followed up with four stops, including a sack, in FSU's Gator Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
"I take criticism good and use that as motivation," said Hudson, who hasn't forgotten Burns' big gain. "It was just a mental error. It bothered me, but not enough to bring me down and get me out of my game. They ran it again and I covered it. Let's move on."
The sleeker Hudson is moving better than ever. And pass coverage aside, his strength is a seek-and-destroy attitude against the run, leading to 74 tackles over the last two seasons.
"I love to get out there and hit," Hudson said. "This is football. This is what we do. It's a beautiful thing."