Greg Hudson, who worked as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Gophers under Glen Mason, acknowledges that he’s a little biased when it comes to evaluating the potential of Vikings first-round draft pick Anthony Barr. That’s because Barr is his nephew.
“I’ve known him since he was a baby, and watched him grow up,” Hudson said about the former UCLA running back turned defensive end. “But he’s a great kid, he really is. He’s grounded, very close to everybody in the family, in particular my in-laws John and Jean Barr. That’s special. They’re his grandparents, but with his parental situation, and just having Mom, they were the ramrods and have been a blessing.
“He has really grown up a good kid in that environment. On top of all that, as good as he is as a kid, he’s a better football player. I think his best football is ahead of him. He’s just scratching the surface on defense. Uncle Greg always thought he was a defensive player, but I can’t blame somebody when they’re good enough to run the football for as long as you can. I’d do it, too.”
Hudson, who is now the defensive coordinator at Purdue, said that while he knows it’s a little unusual to see a player go from an offensive skill position like running back to defensive end, there is a bit of history of it in the college ranks.
“You look at TCU down in Texas; they have made a living at their program of taking great running backs and receivers and making them defensive players,” he said. “There were some great guys back in the ’80s at Notre Dame that were offensive players that coach [Lou] Holtz flipped over. [Former All-America and NFL standout] Todd Lyght was an offensive player and turned out to be one of the best cornerbacks out there. But Anthony wanted to run the football. He had the talent and was good enough, but to be a first-round draft pick it was going to be on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s how it worked out.”
The stats seem to make Hudson’s point. Barr had six carries for 31 yards his freshman season and nine receptions for 66 yards. In his sophomore season he had nine carries for 25 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 16 yards and a score. The next season he switched to linebacker and eventually became an All-America after recording 23½ sacks over two seasons.
Hudson was asked if he thinks Barr could play right away for the Vikings.
“It wouldn’t surprise me because of what he can do athletically,” said Hudson. “He’s a worker, and Anthony is a smart kid, now. Anthony will pick things up fast, he’ll ask good questions, pay attention. He’ll work hard, but Anthony is very bright. He’s going to do well in the classroom there with them, with all those football meetings that he’s about to endure. He’ll pick it up. Then he’s going to get even bigger and stronger than he is now.
“I think what you see on Day 1 with Anthony Barr is not what you’re going to see in August, and I certainly don’t think it’s what you’re going to see down the road.”
Hudson was with the Gophers from 2001 through 2004 and worked for East Carolina and Florida State before landing at Purdue in 2013. So did Hudson try to recruit his nephew out of high school?
“Oh yeah, I had just got to Florida State, had just gotten there, and that was going to bring him all the way across the country,” Hudson said. “It shows how close he is to the family out there in California [Barr attended Los Angeles Loyola High School] — with my wife, all of her sisters and brothers are out there in L.A., and he stayed home.”
Hudson had coached at Cincinnati before joining the Gophers, and he said that hire by Mason was one of the better things to ever happen to him. He also still knows a little bit about how the Gophers are doing these days, since he’s back in the Big Ten.
“They’re really doing a great job,” he said about coach Jerry Kill and his staff. “They have it coming back around, and they’re all excited about their defense. They’re almost as good as that ’03 and ’04 defense. They’re not there yet, but they’re getting there.”
Hudson also said that he considers himself somewhat lucky, since he’s been at only four different schools in the past 14 years.
“I’ve only moved about every four years,” he said. “It hasn’t been one year or two years, it has been a situation where one was even a five-year stint [at East Carolina]. I have been lucky that it hasn’t been tough at all. But I was excited and determined to get back to the Big Ten in some capacity.”
• Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen talked this week about what he saw when he decided to sign with the Bears. “When I looked at the total equation, this was a place where I can be a part of something great,” he said. Allen participated in his first workout with his new team last week.
• Forbes Magazine ranked the Twins 19th in its valuations of major league baseball teams coming into this season, with an estimated value of $605 million and a 2013 operating income of $30.2 million. The Twins’ attendance was down 23 percent in 2013 from their opening season in 2010, and attendance has continued to fall in 2014.