Spring Cleaning: Abdul Hodge

Just what can Abdul Hodge do for an encore in 2004? Sure, he can still become a consensus first team all Big Ten performer, an all American, a Butkus Award winner...but if Hodge just turns in two more years like his stellar 2003 campaign, he will go down as one of the best linebackers in Hawkeye history.

Abdul Hodge, LB, JR (Boyd Anderson HS, Fort Lauderdale, FL)

2004 VITALS: 6-foot-2, 232-pounds (same in 2003)
2001 VITALS: 6-foot-2, 220-pounds

The Skinny: Superprep All American coming out of high school, recruited by Bret Bielema. First team all state as a senior. First team all Big Ten last year as a sophomore as selected by the media. Led the Big Ten in tackles as a sophomore. Has a legitimate chance of being Iowa's 10th three-time first team all Big Ten performer, if he remains healthy.

THE PAST: High School Bio: Three-year varsity starter…SuperPrep all-American as a senior . . .first-team all-state and all-conference his final year . . . first team all-county and third team all-state as a junior . . . captained football team three years at Boyd Anderson . . . lettered in football four times, twice in track and once in basketball . . . named Broward County MVP on defense as a senior . . . team had a 22-10 record during his last three years . . .

Career - - 308 career tackles, 22 sacks and six interceptions . . . also had eight fumble recoveries and two touchdowns following fumble recoveries. . . had over 100 tackles in each of his final three prep seasons . . .best time of 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash . . . played linebacker for a 9-3 team that reached the state semi-finals as a senior.

Personal - - Born 9/9/82 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands . . . parents are Violet Hodge and Leroy Frazier . . . communication studies major . . . National Honor Society member . . .high school coach was Ken Scott.

HAWKEYE CAREER TO DATE

Hodge earned his stripes as a RS Frosh on Iowa's special teams units. He proved to be a hard hitter and with his speed, it was clear that he had a chance to be something special. Hodge combines excellent physical attributes with a great mind in the classroom to be the consummate middle linebacker. Hodge reads the calls from Norm Parker and let's the rest of the defense know what the call is.

Hodge led the Big Ten in tackles and solo's in all games, and was second in tackles and first in solo's in Big Ten play while backing up one of the best defensive lines in the conference.

In my opinion, Hodge's signature play of 2003 came on the first day of 2004 when Iowa played Florida. Facing a third and long, talented Florida QB Chris Leak was flushed out of the pocket by Matt Roth, and Leak was headed for a first down via the run. Hodge chose an aggressive angle of pursuit and closed on Leak like a cruise missile; catching him and bringing him down two yards short of the first.

It's always a stretch to say that ‘Iowa has never had X at X position', because you are taking in a lot of players that you have never seen.

But if Iowa has ever had a MLB with the speed that Hodge possesses, I have not heard about him.

POST SPRING 2004

The best thing to hear about established players like Hodge when you emerge from Spring practice is that they did not suffer any major injuries. Thankfully, Hodge is healthy coming out of this spring.

THE FUTURE

As I said above, if Hodge stays healthy, there is no reason to believe that he won't be Iowa's 10th three-time first team all Big Ten performer. Bob Sanders just turned that hat trick for the Hawkeyes.

When you speak with Abdul Hodge, you would never guess that he houses such a killer instinct on the football field. Hodge is well-spoken, very intelligent and quite engaging. Not that those attributes should be surprising, as former Chicago Bear and Rhodes Scholar linebacker Mike Singletary was the same way off the field.

It's just that when you watch Hodge play and thrust his body into ball carriers with such reckless abandon and ferocity, you don't expect what you get in the post game locker room.

When you scan the 2004 recruiting class, you notice several common denominators. Iowa is bringing in players that are great high school students as well as being great football players. That is something that is great to see, and Hodge is definitely in that mold.

Teamed with fellow star linebacker Chad Greenway, they comprise perhaps the most impressive and speedy linebacker duo in Iowa football history.

And they are just juniors, which means that we will get to watch each of them for two more years…hopefully.

I asked Hodge back in February if he had given any thoughts to the NFL, to which he replied, "No, I am staying two more years."

Selfishly speaking, all Iowa fans hope that is indeed the case.

NFL PROSPECTUS

All Pro linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was 6-feet, 220-pounds when he came out of Miami. I don't know what his 40-yard dash time was, but it couldn't be much better than what Hodge can put up.

The top ILB, or inside linebacker taken in the NFL draft this year was Jonathon Vilma of Miami. He is under 6-1, and weighs 233-pounds.

My point is that Hodge has NFL written all over him, and the scouts have already taken notice. When I spoke with The Insider's NFL expert Lane Adkins back in March, he said that Hodge and Greenway were already being talked about in some NFL circles.

If Hodge does measure close to 6-2 at his NFL combine, whenever that will be, he might have the ‘undersized' label thrown at him. But if he produces for the next year or two the way that he did in 2003 at Iowa, he will be a sure-fire first day selection, and a possible first rounder.

Next year's all Big Ten linebacking corps could be made up of three juniors: Hodge, Greenway and Ohio State's AJ Hawk. It would be something to see all of those players go in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft.


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