UK spring game notes: Defensive ends Smith, Dupree impress

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 13, 2013 

They couldn't tackle the quarterbacks, but the quarterbacks always knew that Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith were nearby.

The Kentucky defensive ends made sure of it.

"You know, they talk to us a lot," sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow said after the Blue-White Spring Game on Saturday.

"They can't tackle us, so they talk to us a lot — about how they wish they could tackle us and how they would do us if they could."

Dupree and Smith both said they wished the quarterbacks had been on opposing teams and not their own.

"We get more pumped up every time we get to the quarterback," said Smith, a junior-college transfer. "We feel sorry for the quarterbacks we're going to play against (next season)."

Coach Mark Stoops, known for his prowess specifically with defensive ends, lamented not being able to see the double sack attack in action.

"If it was a live game and we were live on the quarterbacks, I think they could have created some havoc," Stoops said. "They did a nice job, they are very active and have been very solid all spring."

Smith finished with six tackles, including one for a loss. Dupree was credited with just one tackle, but also had a sack for an 8-yard loss.

It was fun to sit behind them and watch them go to work, said linebacker Avery Williamson, who had a Blue-team high seven tackles and a pass breakup.

"He did good," Williamson said when asked about Smith. "Last year, it was kind of like I was making every tackle, so it was kind of nice not having to make every tackle."

Williamson, who led UK in tackles last season with 135, said he isn't worried about seeing his total tackles go down this season.

"Nah. I'm just worried about winning," the senior said. "The rest will take care of itself. I'm glad I've got some help out there with Za'Darius and Bud, even the inside guys."

Whitlow feels sorry for the opposing quarterbacks, too.

"I mean, they're both fast," he said. "They got safety speed, almost. Bud is a freak and Za'Darius is long and strong and fast. They're both pretty good players."

'I didn't know what to do there for a while'

Even wearing his Kentucky blue, Stoops admitted to feeling a little green.

The first-year coach said the players weren't the only ones a little out of sorts in the first practice in front of a stadium of fans.

"It took me a few series (to get comfortable)," said Stoops, who stood alone about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage for much of the game. "I didn't know what to do there for a while, I was just watching both sides."

He also was dealing with hearing both sides, something he wasn't fully prepared for.

"I couldn't figure out my headset going from offense to defense and all that," he said laughing. "I have to get used to that. Somebody gave me a little lesson before we went out there. Once I figured out the headset I was able to listen to both sides, so that worked out pretty good."

A recruiting punch?

While the 50,000-plus crowd was good for team morale, it might prove to be more important for future team building.

This was a big recruiting weekend for Kentucky. Potential Cats watched from nearby as the fans filed into Commonwealth Stadium for the spring game.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said it's hard to imagine that the potential future Cats didn't feel the love.

"Kids talk, recruits talk to other recruits," he said. "What they're going to be talking about when they leave here is the fan support. Not necessarily so much what happened on the field, but they're going to be talking about fan support. That was huge."

What does Stoops hope the recruits take away from their experience on Saturday, which included a large Cat Walk and Air Raid sirens.

"I hope they just enjoyed that experience," he said. "I just visited with quite a few of them, and you know, I hope they see the passion of this state; they see the passion of the people here, and they see a great group of guys in our locker room, both players and coaches that are going to work extremely hard to get this program turned in the right direction."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com

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