UK Football

UK sees potential in defensive end tandem

Junior Bud Dupree of Irwinton, Ga., is no stranger to position changes at Kentucky.
Junior Bud Dupree of Irwinton, Ga., is no stranger to position changes at Kentucky.

ZaDarius Smith has been helping Bud Dupree with technique.

Dupree has been helping Smith with some of the terminology.

Together the new Kentucky defensive ends hope to be helping themselves to opponents' quarterbacks in the fall.

Smith, one of the top junior college defensive linemen in the country last season, and Dupree, a UK position nomad until now, would like to become the next gruesome twosome in the Mark Stoops defensive end pipeline.

New UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said he sees that potential in Dupree and Smith.

"Definitely, definitely," Eliot said on Monday. "I evaluated both those guys in high school and in junior college and liked what I saw there. ... What I saw from those guys ... was some of the same things I had in my guys at Florida State."

Eliot saw speed, aggression, impressive footwork, a nose for the ball, just to name a few.

Those were the things he saw in players like Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, who all played defensive end for Eliot and Stoops while they were coaching the Seminoles' defense.

Behind Eliot, who was defensive ends coach, and Stoops, the defensive coordinator, Florida State saw that position become one of the most improved in the nation.

In just one season under Eliot and Stoops, Florida State tied for best in the country in sacks (48), ranked third in sacks per game (3.4) and tied for 11th in total tackles for loss.

The year before Stoops and Eliot took over the defense, the Seminoles were just 58th in sacks and 61st in tackles for loss.

This past season, Werner and Carradine combined for 24 sacks and 31 tackles for loss for a defense that was among the best in the nation.

Smith and Dupree have a ways to go, but their new coaches like their promise.

Playing multiple positions for UK's defense in his two seasons has helped Dupree make the adjustment to yet another switch.

"It's prepared me very well playing all over the field," Dupree said. "I've been able to adjust to it well and take on new roles. I just try to do my best at every position coaches put me in."

Now that his position is set, Dupree is shining.

"He's playing defensive end and playing it very well, doing a good job," Stoops said on Monday.

Last week during practice, Stoops said he noticed Smith, a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder, making a few big-time plays.

"He's doing good," Stoops said. "He's ahead. ... So he's doing a nice job."

Having already played for defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh at the junior college level has helped Smith.

Having Smith out there has been like having an assistant defensive line coach.

"I don't have to learn the scheme or learn the technique, I already know that stuff, so (I'm) just getting in and learning the plays," Smith said.

Smith's first love was basketball, and he didn't really start playing football full-time until his senior year of high school. But he said he's caught on quickly.

His basketball skills have made him a better football player, too, Smith said.

"I was playing the five in high school and that required a lot of footwork, so playing D-end at this level, requires a lot of footwork as well," he said Saturday.

Smith has more than footwork. He also has the swagger that comes with playing defensive end in the Southeastern Conference.

When asked if he was worried about facing some of the nation's top offensive linemen this fall, he got a wide grin.

"I'm going to be able to handle it," Smith said. "A man gotta do what a man gotta do."


UK Spring Game

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Commonwealth Stadium