Even Kentucky's coaches mocked the "Bad Boys" nickname a little bit early on.
When Mark Stoops was asked about the moniker developed by defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree early in fall camp, the coach smiled.
"No, no, I didn't sign off on any of that," the former defensive coordinator at Florida State laughed, before adding: "Well, we'll see if we play like bad boys. I've seen some bad boys before, so we'll see."
Even defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot got a jab in about the name.
"They told me they're referring to the media," he smiled.
Bad Boys was Dupree's way of developing more confidence and swagger for a UK defense that was 92nd in the nation a year ago, that managed just three interceptions in 12 games.
The group needed a unifying edge, he explained.
"In between the lines, you need to be a different type of person and then when you step off the field, you can go back to being good," he explained.
Dupree and his defensive teammates heard plenty of jokes from outside the locker room.
But the defense is starting to live up to the name, ranking 13th nationally in scoring defense (15 points a game), 16th in turnover margin, 24th in passing defense (allowing 186 yards a game) and 25th in total defense (323 yards a game).
Kentucky hasn't allowed a touchdown in the first half in four straight games for the first time since 1979. Opponents have only scored on 15 percent of their 52 drives this season against UK and that includes the two overtime TDs for Florida.
"We all believed and now we're all seeing it," linebacker Josh Forrest said. "Coach Stoops makes us see it. We definitely have a different kind of swagger about us."
The Kentucky defense has forced a turnover in each of its first four games and doubled the number of interceptions from last season.
"That's big," defensive tackle C.J. Johnson said. "Our D-backs always say 'no-fly zone' and that's good to see. When you give yourself a title, you gotta live up to it."
Thus the Bad Boys want to keep the momentum going against South Carolina on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Kentucky defense doesn't hear much chuckling anymore when they talk about being Bad Boys.
"At first, people laughed at it," cornerback Cody Quinn said of the Bad Boys name and on-the-field mentality. "But now they're starting to see. It's not being taken as a joke anymore."
Even Stoops has started to buy into the hype.
"He says it at practice now," Dupree said. "We broke (practice) down the other day with 'Bad Boys.' So Coach Stoops, yeah, he likes it."
The Kentucky defense has the attention of Gamecocks Coach Steve Spurrier, whose offense is 11th in the Southeastern Conference overall averaging 33.4 points a game and 421.6 yards a game.
"They'll blitz a little bit more than most teams do," Spurrier said. "They've got guys coming."
The South Carolina coach also noted UK's strength and conditioning work and highly rated recruiting classes are starting to pay off.
"Their team looks good," Spurrier said. "They look good in their uniforms, and they play fast, play fast and hustle, which is the sort of defensive-background-type coach that he is."
But having some early success and garnering a couple of compliments from coaches isn't enough, the Kentucky defenders said.
"You don't earn it until the end of the season," Johnson said. "It can go south quick. We've gotta keep fighting and hope that Bad Boy reputation will keep going."