At this time a year ago, Jordan Swindle spent a lot of time with his backside on the practice field watching Bud Dupree fly by.
Against one of the conference's best defensive ends, Kentucky's right tackle struggled.
"Bud kind of had his way with him," UK offensive line coach John Schlarman recalled from practices last spring. "Swindle was on the wrong end of the stick quite a few times."
Eventually, Swindle got tired of that end of the stick and he started to push back.
Last summer, motivated by his lopsided duels with Dupree, Swindle got bigger and stronger. He spent extra time watching film, started noticing little things that eluded him when he was still green at such a key position.
He started to gain some confidence, and by fall camp Schlarman said he saw Swindle start "winning more of those one-on-ones."
Dupree noticed it, too.
So UK's defensive star started to up his game.
The give and take, the push and shove between the two players has paid dividends for both of them.
"We go really hard and we give each other our best each time," Swindle said of Dupree. "I'd just say we're making each other better."
The player on the other side of those battles said he's seen Swindle, a 6-foot-7, 304-pound junior, take his game to a whole new level.
"And I'm on a whole other level, too," Dupree said. "So we keep pushing each other every day back and forth in practice. I know he's going to be a name from the offensive line they're going to talk about in the SEC this year."
Part of what makes Swindle so fun to compete against is his edge. He's soft-spoken and introspective in interviews and even in the locker room, but get him on the football field and he's a different kind of character.
It was something Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown couldn't help but notice late last season when he started regularly referring to Swindle as an important leader on his offense.
"Any really good football team that I've ever been on, the tone is always set up front," Brown said last fall. "And I really believe that you have to have some nastiness. You've gotta play within the rules ... but you want a tough, physical presence up front."
Dupree, who is good friends with Swindle when they're not going at it in practice, said Kentucky has that sort of player in Swindle, who started every game last season at right tackle and played in 11 games his true freshman season.
"Jordan is the typical offensive lineman," UK's senior defensive end said. "He supposed to be nasty; he's supposed to be dirty and he's playing that role. He's all that. He's a great player."
The Cats' coaches are impressed by Swindle's advances in strength and skill, but seem more impressed with his improved demeanor. Schlarman distinctly remembers seeing bad body language when things didn't go well for his right tackle. He's seen that disappear in the last year.
He's seen Swindle become a vocal leader not just for the offensive line but the offense as a whole.
"I don't think I could be more proud of a guy than I am of Jordan Swindle and how he has attacked this off-season and carried it into this spring," the offensive line coach said.
Just watching those hand-to-hand combat battles between Dupree and Swindle impresses Kentucky center Jon Toth. The sophomore said Swindle gets the line "pretty rowdy.
"He likes to get us psyched up and he gets out there and knocks some pads. ... He gives us that extra push, and seeing him go so hard makes us want to go extra hard for him."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.