Dupree setting high standard for Kentucky defense

jsmith3@herald-leader.comApril 4, 2014 

  • SPRING FOOTBALL

    When: Through April 26

    Where: Nutter Training Center (practices closed to public)

    Spring game: 3:30 p.m. April 26 at Commonwealth Stadium

Opposing offensive linemen have never worried him.

It's hard to imagine what exactly would shake a 6-foot-4, 267-pound defensive lineman.

But speaking up was never quite comfortable for Alvin "Bud" Dupree, so the Kentucky end always let someone else do it.

As an underclassman, it seemed there was always someone older and more comfortable in that role, willing to say what needed to be said.

Dupree is a senior now and those vocal guys on defense like linebacker Avery Williamson are gone.

So the defensive end had to stop worrying and start talking.

"I just had to just throw it to the side and do whatever," Dupree said when asked about his fears of speaking up. "I've never really been a big talker because people really don't understand what I'm saying. So I had to work on my speech and just learn how to communicate well."

More often than not, it's not about what Dupree is saying.

"He doesn't take plays off," cornerback J.D. Harmon said. "You see Bud running from the backside to the frontside of the field at max speed, maximum speed just trying to get to the ball."

Dupree, who has started 27 straight games and has gotten All-Southeastern Conference honors each of the past two seasons, is poised to have an even bigger season than his 61 tackles and 9.5 quarterback sacks last season.

He's added 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season, which has made him even more dynamic.

"I really feel faster than I was at this time last year," said Dupree, who finished in the top 10 in the league in sacks each of the past two seasons. "I'm getting more explosive and I've added muscle. That helps."

Dupree used to worry about himself and doing what he needs to do to succeed. Now he's worried about everyone around him doing it right as well.

As UK searches for a defensive quarterback to call plays from Williamson's middle linebacker spot, Dupree has started calling them from his spot at the end of the line.

He wants to be a voice that his teammates become accustomed to hearing before plays start and once they end.

"Avery is tough to replace, but Bud's been very good in that role," Coach Mark Stoops said after a recent spring practice.

When players miss tackles, Dupree gets up in faces. His expectations for the team are high, Harmon said.

"He sees somebody slacking and he says that's not what we do, that's not one of our values as a team," the cornerback said. "Everybody wants to follow Bud."

So whether he's comfortable saying it or doing it, Dupree has become the team leader.

That's not always a comfortable role, defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot admitted. Not every player is at ease challenging his teammates to do it the right way every time.

"When you're a leader, you've got to do what's right, not what's popular," Eliot said. "Sometimes players get confused about those two different things. ... Sometimes you've got to stand up against popularity and do the right thing and get people to follow you."

That's not a problem for Dupree, at least not in his last season at Kentucky.

"I really don't care," he said. "I don't care what people say, if I feel like you should do it, I'm going to tell you. Winning's all that matters to me at this point."

Practice notes

■ UK's head coach has had high praise for his players during spring practices, noting that much improvement is needed, but he's also happy with the progress.

"Overall we're improving," Stoops said Friday. "We're a better football team right now. And it's like I told them: We're a lot better. We're miles ahead of where we were and we need to continue to go miles further to be competitive in this league, but I like the pace we're on right now."

■ The head coach defined Kentucky's quarterback situation as "still murky.

"All of them are doing some good things at times," he said. "And of course, here and there making a few bad decisions."

When asked about the possibility of an obvious starting quarterback failing to emerge, Stoops seemed undeterred, saying he wouldn't make a reckless decision.

"We've got to continue to work its way out," he said. "We're in no panic mode. We have time."

■ Running back Jojo Kemp didn't practice again Friday, battling a tweaked hamstring. He's expected to practice on Saturday.

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

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