Trick plays in college football are like sprinkles on an ice cream sundae; you don’t really need them, but they add a bit of fun and flavor. Last year, ECU did not have the personnel to successfully pull-off a trick play or a wide receiver pass or something along those lines.

In this latest recruiting class, however, the Pirates landed a dual-threat quarterback from Cedartown, Georgia by the name of Taji Hudson. Ranked the 31st-best player in his position group nationally by, Hudson missed his senior prep season with an injury but came back healthy in time to participate in preseason camp with the Pirates.

With the ability to both run and pass the football effectively, Hudson makes for an intriguing option if Mike Houston ever wants to break out a trick play or two.

“We had a kid at JMU that was a high school quarterback and he was the best trick-play kid we had,” Houston said last week. “I think all those guys have that same ability as well. The other thing about them, you take a guy like Taji, he’s used to being a leader. He’s very intelligent, very football smart and has that savviness about him that any quarterback is usually going to have. That makes for a great position player because he’s done a lot of different things and seen a lot of different things and usually understands the offense very well.”

Competing for playing time in a crowded quarterback room this preseason, Hudson found himself falling behind after he missed some time. During that period, Alex Flinn and Mason Garcia broke away in the competition for the back-up quarterback role, leaving limited opportunities for Hudson to find the field in 2020.

In a normal year, the Pirates would likely redshirt a player like Hudson. This year, however, has been anything but normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the NCAA to rule that this year will not count against student-athletes’ eligibility.

That decision made it easier for Houston and the coaching staff to decide how they will utilize Hudson’s raw athleticism and talent in his freshman campaign.

“He was with us on the scout team at the beginning of the week on the offensive scout team,” Houston said. “We stuck him out at wide receiver. Now we all had talked about this possibility, but holy cow. You talk about showing your athleticism and play-making ability. We made the transition, for this year he’s going to play wide receiver for us and be heavily involved in special teams.”

Earlier this preseason, Houston said Hudson had the athletic ability to play any stand-up position on the offensive side of the football. When the coaching staff was having discussions about moving Hudson off the quarterback position for this year, the idea was also kicked around about putting him in the defensive backfield.

It was Hudson’s skillset and tools, though, that will keep him repping with the offense for the foreseeable future.

“You look out there, he’s taller than most of our tight ends other than Zech Byrd and he’s more athletic than just about anybody on the team,” Houston said. “Has that big frame, big hands, speed, so he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch when he gets everything figured out on that side of the ball.”

When Hudson committed to ECU in the summer of 2019, his athletic ability on film jumped out at many people. With the kind of talent he possesses, it was only a matter of time until he forced his way onto the field, the only question being where he would play. At wide receiver for this season, it is possible the Pirates move him back to quarterback or to another position sometime in the future.

That flexibility allows Hudson to potentially fill multiple roles during his time at ECU, including potentially being involved in some trick plays, while his attitude toward playing different positions makes transitioning him easy.

“I had a talk with him,” Houston said. “Great attitude — ‘coach whatever you think is best for me, I just want to do my part, would love to get on the field and play’ — that kind of attitude. If they all had that attitude then things would be a whole lot smoother. We’ll probably look at him at quarterback again in the future…We’ve chosen wide receiver for this year.”

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