UK Football

Kentucky linebacker will play anywhere to help team win

Kentucky's Alvin Dupree sacked Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith in UK's victory last weekend. It was the sophomore's first game at weakside linebacker.
Kentucky's Alvin Dupree sacked Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith in UK's victory last weekend. It was the sophomore's first game at weakside linebacker. Herald-Leader

Outside, inside, weakside, strongside, it's all beside the point to Kentucky sophomore Alvin "Bud" Dupree.

"Whatever helps my team win," the linebacker said on Wednesday of his new position change.

Just a few days after the Cats' loss at Louisville showed they had more than a few issues at linebacker, coaches told Dupree that he was going to make a position switch from the hybrid defensive end/linebacker to weakside linebacker.

"It wasn't a slam dunk," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said of the move. "So he sort of had a crash course last week."

Dupree showed the coaches that he was capable of taking on the extra work, learning the weakside linebacker spot while also still sharing time with senior Taylor Wyndham at the rush spot.

Minter called the process of learning both spots "a mouth full" for any player.

But if there's anyone who could do it, it's Dupree, who played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman, starting the final three. The 6-foot-4, 249-pounder from Irwinton, Ga., had 21 tackles, 14 in the last three games.

"There's guys who don't know what to do at Will (linebacker) and they've been here for two years," Minter said. "He did it for four days. It shows you his football aptitude. He's a pretty smart kid."

It wasn't an easy transition, especially in the shorter week between the Louisville and Kent State games.

"It is kind of hard learning what to do in so short period of time," Dupree said Wednesday. "So I just try to stay in the film room, stay in the playbook."

Dupree, who is third on the team in tackles with 12, including 3½ for losses, admitted he cheated a little this summer, working extra at that spot because he "wanted to see what it felt like."

That's the kind of work ethic that's made Dupree a coaches' favorite.

"He's a really talented, smart, athletic kid that can play numerous positions for us," Coach Joker Phillips said. "You saw last year as a true freshman, he lined up at some of the inside backer, especially the last game of the season. ... He's a guy who can do it. He's athletic enough and he's smart enough and understands our packages enough to do it."

This week, he's been exclusively practicing at the new spot, mainly to get up to speed. Dupree still will see plenty of time at the rush linebacker spot, where he's listed as the backup to Wyndham now.

Getting both of the veterans on the field was the key reason for the move, Phillips told the media this week.

"The comfort level of those guys and the experience actually helped us on defense," Phillips said.

On Monday, the head coach said when UK changed coordinators and schemes that Wyndham became a "guy without a home." He's not big enough to play at one spot and not fast enough to play at another.

Wyndham is best at rushing the passer, so this was a more natural fit for him. And his knowledge of the game is invaluable with such an inexperienced defense around him, coaches said.

"Taylor's a veteran; he's a fifth-year kid. He's done so many things to help our defense here for five years," Minter said. "So really it was about a promotion more than a demotion."

True freshman Khalid Henderson is getting in the mix at the weakside linebacker spot, moving up to No. 2 on the depth chart this week ahead of Malcolm McDuffen.

Dupree said Henderson is showing promise.

"He's stepped up a lot," Dupree said. "He knows it's his turn."

But until it's completely his turn, Dupree is happy playing wherever the coaches move him. The sophomore said it's humbling that the coaches have so much faith in him.

"It means I've been working hard and doing the things they want me to do," Dupree said. "I'll just try to get better and better every day and try to keep them happy."

Williams will start at RB

Running back CoShik Williams practiced for the second straight day and will start on Saturday, with Raymond Sanders backing him up.

"(Williams) went full speed both days. He's ready to go," Phillips said of the senior, who sat out last game with back pain. "But we'll continue to have a rotation. Jonathan George deserves to play. He'll get to see some reps also."

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