UK football: Dupree ready for work in the trenches

broberts@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2013 

Even before all of the staff positions had been filled, there was a plan in place for one of the Kentucky football team's best returning defensive players.

Alvin "Bud" Dupree, a linebacker for most of his career at UK, was switching to defensive end the moment D.J. Eliot was hired as the Cats' defensive coordinator.

"I had recruited Bud when I was at Florida State," Eliot said. "I had evaluated him. We had him at camp. So I knew his talents that he had before I got here."

Those talents, Eliot thought, would be best implemented on the defensive line.

Dupree, who will be a junior next season, started all 12 games in 2012 as an outside linebacker in Kentucky's 3-4 defense.

He obviously had success at the position. His 6.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss are the most of any returning Wildcat, and his 91 tackles rank second behind Avery Williamson.

But Eliot called Dupree a "natural defensive end," so that's where the 6-foot-4, 254-pounder was when spring practice started last week.

Dupree was fine with the move. "I don't really care," he said. "I've been moving positions forever, so I'm used to it. I'm just trying to be great at whatever I do."

He said he played receiver, defensive end, tight end and offensive tackle in high school before cutting himself off and concluding, "I played everything in high school."

Dupree came to UK as a tight end, then moved to wide receiver before finally being switched to the defensive side of the ball before the first game of his freshman season.

He closed that year strong, starting the last three games at linebacker and accumulating 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks in those starts.

A new staff means new expectations, but defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh says Dupree has done "a heckuva job" learning stances and techniques he's never done before.

"When I take a group over, I say, 'They don't know anything.' So I start from the basics," Brumbaugh said. "And if I start from the basics, I never assume that they know something.

"It's a learning thing. He's never done it before. We're in the sixth practice now, the third or fourth day of pads. It's going to take time. And with that time, he'll get better and better at it."

Dupree is starting the spring at a bit of a disadvantage.

He tore ligaments in his left hand during last season's final game at Tennessee, and he said he's still not 100 percent healthy.

He wears a brace on the injured hand but despite the injury, Dupree is excited about one of the biggest adjustments at his new position: More contact.

"At linebacker, you don't really have to hit somebody on every play because you'll be in (pass) coverage," he said. "At D-end, you've gotta hit somebody on every play or somebody will hit you. You have to be in way more shape as a D-lineman, I think. You cannot just run around somebody, you have to take on somebody.

"I like contact. I like hard-nosed football."

And Brumbaugh likes what he's seen so far from Dupree.

The D-line coach said Eliot mentioned Dupree as soon as he was hired. It didn't take him long to figure out why Eliot wanted his former recruit on the defensive line.

"I could tell as soon as he got on the field that he was a big-time guy coming out of high school. He was just raw," Brumbaugh said.

"The thing of it is, he's quick-twitch enough and powerful enough to be able to do it."

Though UK hasn't released a depth chart, Dupree and junior college transfer Za'Darius Smith are the favorites to start at defensive end in the Cats' new 4-3 scheme.

Smith, a 6-foot-6, 257-pounder, played for Brumbaugh last season at East Mississippi Community College.

Brumbaugh was an all-SEC defensive lineman for Auburn in the 1990s, so he knows what it takes to be successful in this league.

With Dupree and Smith, he thinks he has the guys for the job.

"I've been happy with the defensive end position, with the athleticism that we have," he said. "They're raw, but they have ability. Any time you've got ability, now you just have to be a good teacher and teach them.

"They look like SEC guys — guys that can do it."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216.Twitter: @NextCats.Blog:

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