The Defensive Coordinator Wish List: Greg Hudson, East Carolina

The first in a series co-authored by Tomahawk Nation and ChantRant.  These are not mirror pieces, so make sure to read ChantRant's take to get the full feel for East Carolina Defensive Coordinator, Greg Hudson.

As many of you know, speculation is rampant that Mickey Andrews, Florida State's legendary defensive coordinator will retire after this season.  Jim Young with ACCSports.com has more on that possibility.  Mickey Andrews is my favorite coach of all time.  He has always done a great job for Florida State; conducting himself with honor and tenacity.  Unfortunately, his defenses have begun to slip (discussed inside).  Most don't believe he will be here past 2009 and some don't think he be here in 2009 at all.  

Do NOT rule out the possibility of a farewell tour in 2009 for both Bobby and Mickey, with a young guy picked by Jimbo entering as a LB coach to replace Chuck Amato.  Remember that Mickey let Kevin Steele work his magic with the defense from 2003-2006 (discussed inside)

When I first began to think about the next great defensive coordinator to pace the sidelines of Doak, I thought of several criteria.  Youth was very important, as we need a guy who can set the example for the rest of his defensive staff by working a "Sabanesque" 90 hours a week.  All of the guys in this series are under 52 years of age, and almost all are under 45.   Greg Hudson is 41, and as you can see in Chantrant's piece, he is a tireless worker.   

I looked for success at schools that didn't already have great talent.  This is both success within the conference the team plays in and success developing lesser talented players.  This is an important goal because Florida State is an awesome place to go to school and has really nice amenities to offer recruits.  The 'Noles will always have the athletes, so it would make sense that we want a guy who will make the most use of that athleticism, and not just depend on the athleticism alone for results.  Clearly, East Carolina is not a place for elite talent, but Hudson has done a nice job improve the talent level and coaching what he has.

They obviously teach technique and develop players.  This is another play on the "doesn't just rely on a player's athleticism to ensure success" theme.  FSU fans believe the current staff has not done a good job of doing this over the past 3-5 years.  We want players to get better each year as a result of focused coaching efforts.  His players do improve, but more evidence is needed to evaluate this.

 

They have the ability to make their players understand schemes, coverages. Their players appear to be prepared and understand the defense. These defenses often confuse QB's.  This has a lot to do with being  a film nut.  The next defensive coordinator needs to utilize technology to isolate situations and tendencies, and call his defense accordingly.  Like it or not, the spread is here to stay.  That means quick reads and constraint plays.  I do not have enough info about this at this time.

Their defense perform favorably in opponent adjusted advanced football metrics.  This includes Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, FEI (the stat I used today to compare 2007 to 2008), and Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense.  Hudson was the defensive coordinator at Minnesota in 2003 and 2004.  In 2003, his defense posted an impressive 36th in Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense.  In 2004, he lost his top two starters and the secondary suffered multiple injuries as they slipped to 78th.  Injuries area major problem for smaller programs as they lack depth.  From what I can tell, Hudson seems to favor stopping the run at all costs and does play a lot of man press.  Let's hope he is good at teaching this coverage.  You can watch ECU play for the Conference USA Championship against Tulsa, this Saturday, 12 Noon, on ESPN.  

A quick note on Mickey's defenses in the above mentioned metrics.  We used to dominate these categories like no other, even when adjusting for the Weak ACC.  From 1994 to 2004, the Noles WORST finish in Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense was 40th!  They finished in the TOP TWO FOUR TIMES!  But there was a slide.

In 2004, we finished 22nd overall, allowing 54% completions, 8TD's and 16 INT's against weak competition.  Our Rushing defense allowed.  

In 2005, we slipped to 74th overall!  The defense allowed over 200 yards per game passing and 15 TD's with just 12 picks against some horrible QB's.

In 2006, the defense did not return to the elite level, but did improve a bit with better health, finishing 43rd.  

In 2007, despite not losing any starters, they slipped to 50th, their 3rd consecutive year outside the top 40.

In 2008, returning a loaded and veteran unit, the Noles are again outside the top 40, at 49th!

We also really miss Kevin Steele (linebackers coach from 2003-2006).  

In 2002, we had our worst rushing D performance in years, allowing 3.7 yards per carry.  Enter Steele.  In 2003, we cut the number to 3.3 and tallied 36 sacks.  In 2004, Steele jacked these guys to another level, despite massive losses in the offseason, as we allowed only 2.4 yards per carry (3rd best in NCAA) and tallied 39 sacks!  In 2005, it was 2.9 yards per carry and 44 sacks!  In 2006, Steele's last year, it was 2.9 yards per carry and 26 sacks.

Enter Amato, after Steele leaves, and watch the Run Defense match the pass defense's futility.  In 2007, they only needed to replace one starter, and the unit went from 2.9 yards per carry allowed to 3.3, while tallying only 29 sacks.  This year, Amato's poor coaching is again shining through, as the unit is allowing 3.7 yards per carry, their worst in almost 20 years!

 

In 2005, Hudson left Minnesota to become the defensive coordinator for East Carolina (his current position).  ECU was coming off their worst rush D performance in twelve years, as they allowed 4.9 yards per carry and tallied only 15 sacks.  Hudson immediately turned around their front 7 with an infusion of talent and an attitude change.  They cut their yards per carry from 4.9 to 4.7 in 2005, and their sacks jumped from 15 to 20.  It would have been better, had more than 4 linebackers from the entire 2004 3-deep returned (losing 8 of 12 linebackers, many unexpectedly).  The year before Hudson took over was truly an awful defensive year for the Pirates.  In addition to allowing those gaudy rushing totals, they finished 105th in Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense.  Enter Hudson; Enter Improvement.  Hudson moved them up 25 spots, to # 80, and they allowed 11 TD's while tallying 15 interceptions (good ratio).  

In 2006, Hudson's unit again showed improvement.  Follow me here.  They allowed 4.9 yards per carry in 2004, Hudson arrived in 2005, cutting it to 4.7, and in 2006, Hudson's 2nd year, they cut it to 4.0.  2 years and a full yard less per carry.  With Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense, they finished 105th in 2004, Hudson arrived in 2005 improving them to 80th, and again showed improvement in 2006, as they improved to 71st.  Now, many will wonder whether the Pirate's improvement is because of the defense or the offense.  The answer is both, but the Pirates defense has been carrying this team.  In 2006, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency ranked 41st, while their Offense ranked 66th!  They also held a dynamite West Virginia team to only 153 yards on 42 carries (did lose the game).

In 2007, Hudson's front 7 again improved.  They cut their yards per carry allowed from 4.0 to 3.9, and massively increased their sack total from 18 in 2006 to 27 in 2007.  Their secondary was a different story.  After suffering massive graduation losses they were decimated by injuries, and at one point were playing 4 guys out of position.  They dropped to 98th in the country (71st in 2006).  Obviously hampered by a secondary with everyone playing out of position, and youth across the board, Hudson's defense finished 74th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.  

In 2008, Hudson's first ECU recruiting class has matured, and the players from the previous administration are no longer around.  The front 7 is allowing 3.87 yards per carry (improvement shown in every year, though slight).  They have 26 sacks (sure to best last year's total with 2 remaining games).  Importantly, they are 45th in Phil Steele's Opponent Adjusted Pass Efficiency Defense!  It seems playing the young guys in 2007 really paid off.  The most telling statistic, however, to me is their improvement in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, as they are carrying this ECU team with a National Ranking of 33rd!  Skip Holtz gets a lot of credit, but his offense is riding the back of this defense, as the offense ranks 66th.  

Strategy Note:  Hudson favors massive defensive tackles, and smaller linebackers.  He runs a 4-3 and plays the occasional rover.

Jimbo seems to trust Hudson.  They worked together at Cincinnati for several years.  Hudson is clearly not a candidate to jump a a premier head coaching position in the next few years, and that is appealing.  I believe he would be a huge upgrade over Chuck Amato, both in recruiting and coaching, as many(including myself) believe Amato to be absolutely terrible.  It might not be a bad idea to bring him in as the LB coach/ DCIW if in fact a farewell tour deal has been brokered between Bobby, Mickey, and the Adminsitration. 

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