UK's Donte Rumph braces for 'family feud' against Alabama

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 8, 2013 

  • No. 1 Alabama at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday

    Records: Alabama 5-0 (2-0 SEC); UK 1-4 (0-2)

    TV: ESPN2

As soon as Donte Rumph saw the text message on Sunday, he knew immediately who sent it.

"Roll Tide!" the text read, and the Kentucky defensive lineman repeated it in his loudest, most boisterous voice.

The message was from Donte's uncle, Chris, one of his earliest and biggest football influences.

Chris Rumph will be on the opposing sideline at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night as defensive line coach for top-ranked, unbeaten Alabama.

How did Rumph, a senior leader on Kentucky's defense, respond to the taunting text?

"I said, 'We'll see on Saturday,'" Rumph said quietly.

This isn't the first football feud in the Rumph family.

"Donte's seen his brother play and his uncle play and his first cousin," said Dennis Rumph, Donte's father. "He's been around football for a long time, just watching the family play, so I guess my brother (Chris) kind of started the football trend in the Rumph family and everyone's kind of taken off from there."

The nephews and cousins and brothers and uncles, they've all seemingly played against each other at one time or another, said Dennis Rumph.

"It's not going to be a family divided, we just wish the best for everyone," said Dennis Rumph, who didn't play football, but will be in Lexington this weekend to cheer on his brother (but mostly his son) on Saturday.

"That's my son," Dennis said.

"That's my son," he repeated again with more emphasis. "Gotta cheer for my son. I hope everything goes well for both, but I got to cheer for my son."

Donte's older brother, Tremaine Tyler, played for South Carolina. Chris Rumph, who also played for the Gamecocks, coached at Clemson for five seasons. Rumph's cousin, Phillip Merling, was a star defensive end at Clemson before being selected by the Miami Dolphins in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Donte Rumph, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior from St. Matthews, S.C., said he'd expect nothing less from his dad.

"He's blue all day, BBN," said Donte, a three-year starter at defensive tackle who has 11 tackles this season. "That's how we roll."

Some of Donte's earliest football memories are of his uncle Chris. He was a mentor of sorts.

"Just with the family and everything, watching him growing up and playing at Carolina, and then when I was younger and him coaching at the high school I was going to be going to, just hanging around the guys, just picking up on small things, just the game, basically," Donte said of Chris. "He's always been kind of a sideline coach. He's been a great influence on me and what I've become."

Chris Rumph, per Alabama rules, was not made available for this story. He left Clemson and joined the Crimson Tide staff in 2011, replacing longtime Nick Saban assistant Bo Davis, who left for Texas.

Rumph's 2012 Tide defensive line led the nation in rush defense, allowing only 76.4 yards a game while also leading the country in total defense, allowing 250 yards a game. In 2011, Rumph's Alabama line was ranked No. 1 in rushing defense, giving up just 72.2 yards a game.

Donte Rumph said he randomly talks to and texts with his uncle. Every once in a while, they steal a minute and talk on the phone. Although not this week. Chris already had his say via text.

"His schedule is as busy as mine, so we can't really communicate as well as we'd like to," said Donte Rumph, who has 90 career tackles in 23 career starts.

When Donte goes up against his uncle's team on Saturday, Dennis expects that there will be plenty of family in the stands to cheer both of them on.

"We just hope all is well, that there's a good turnout, that everyone will do well," Dennis said.

Hatcher: I just had to fight through it

Kentucky freshman Jason Hatcher broke his right hand in two places against South Carolina last weekend and still managed to finish the game.

"I just wasn't going to let my hand stop me," the defensive end said. "I knew it was hurting, but I just had to fight through it."

The former standout at Louisville Trinity said he didn't even mention the injury until the next day. "That's when I said something about my hand because I didn't want to come out the game. I just felt like it was my turn to step up."

It showed his head coach the type of player Hatcher is and will be for the next few years.

"I see good things from Jason," Coach Mark Stoops said. "I thought he did some very good things. He was in a tough spot. There's a lot going at him. Different calls, different things. He made a few mistakes, but I love him; I love his work ethic, his ability. He's been versatile for us and we've been force– feeding him and it's good to see him making plays."

For now, Hatcher is playing with a large cast on his right hand. He broke a knuckle and a larger bone.

"He got a little bigger cast on there today, so I didn't like the look of that," Stoops said. "We got to try to see if we can scale that thing down as the week goes on."

Hatcher was all for that. "I mean if the doctors allow it. Coach Stoops and I both want to get this cast gone immediately — you know what I mean — and permanently, but it's up to the doctors."

The cast could cause him a few issues come game time, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said.

"Just like anybody in a cast, they won't be able to grab as well," Eliot said. "For the most part, as long as you stay on your feet and still wrap up and tackle, you're in good shape."

Seeing blue at Keeneland

Keeneland has special plans on Friday for fans of both Alabama and Kentucky with See Blue Day. Events will include dedicated fan zones for the Cats and the Crimson Tide on The Hill.

UK cheerleaders will make an appearance and there will be a handicapping challenge between UK radio voice Tom Leach and his Alabama counterpart, Eli Gold, with all proceeds benefitting UK's DanceBlue and the Tide's Dance Marathon.


Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at Kentucky

When: 7 p.m.

Records: Alabama 5-0 (2-0 SEC); UK 1-4 (0-2)

TV: ESPN2

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

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