MADISON, Wis. - Austin Hudson doesn't want his youth to be an excuse. Most guys his age are wrapping up their final semester of high school right now, but Hudson knew there was no time to waste if he wanted to help the Wisconsin Badgers on the field as soon as possible.
So Hudson enrolled early with the Badgers to participate in spring football, giving him an extra semester's worth of work under his belt before his eligibility clock starts ticking. The extra experience came at a price- Hudson had to graduate early from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., in order to get to work, but it sounds like the 6-foot-2 safety thinks he made the right decision.
"I've always been a 'work now, enjoy later' kind of person," Hudson said Tuesday after practice. "I can always have fun with my friends, but I can never have this time back to get a leg up on the competition."
Perhaps the biggest benefit of enrolling early is that Hudson earned an extra month's worth of practice time to learn, digest, and commit Wisconsin's complex 3-4 defense to memory. And while Hudson said there are nuances to Dave Aranda scheme that he still needs to learn, for the most part he has made progress- even if it means having a bad practice or two along the way.
"Generally I think that I get the defense- it's a really smart defense based off of leverage," Hudson said. "There's little things in there like formation recognition that I need to correct, and there's always something to improve on to be a better football player. I'm coming along a little bit. It feels good when you have a good practice, and when you don't have a good practice you've just got to look at positives from it."
Hudson said Tuesday's practice was one of his worst since spring camp started for the Badgers in early March, but by struggling and working his way through the playbook now Hudson hopes he'll be in a good position for fall camp.
"Fall camp is going to be big for me, because I feel like I'll know all of the installs," Hudson said. "Everything will be cemented. It'll just be my time to see what I can do with that."
"It's a complex defense- that's why we're good at it. We pride ourselves on playing fundamental defense. I mean, I'm a good athlete, but that doesn't mean a thing if I don't know the playbook."
That athleticism is a big reason why Hudson is playing defense in the first place. He had other scholarship offers to play wide receiver coming out of high school, but the Badgers identified him as a defensive talent as part of Aranda's desire to upgrade the unit's athleticism.
But raw ability aside Hudson knows that he still has a long way to go until fall camp and Wisconsin's 2014 regular season. And while he acknowledged that there would be opportunities for him to see the field this fall at safety or on special teams, Hudson also mentioned that right now he knows he still has a long way to go.
"I'm not ready to be in a game right now- bottom line," Hudson said. "Everything I do is working up to being in a game. Work will bring the result. If you work hard things are going to be there. If you work hard you can't be disappointed."
So far Hudson isn't disappointed that he enrolled early, and it's safe to say his coaches feel the same way.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.