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By LARRY VAUGHT

As far as Kentucky defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh is concerned, junior defensive end Za’Darius Smith is “right where he should be” with his development.

“I think right now he has seen the speed of the game and is now trying to understand how to transition to the pass rush off the play-action. Just the tempo of the game and how big and athletic these guys are is what he’s learned to handle,” said Brumbaugh. “I think he is right where I thought he would be.

“He has been working hard. He never has a fault about anything. I can get on him and he will go try to fix it. That is what I love about him. He is not a guy that is going to talk back and this and that. He is going to listen to what I tell him and try to utilize it and get better.”

Smith played for Brumbaugh at East Mississippi Community College in 2012 and was a second-team All-American after making 47 tackles, including 6.5 quarterback sacks. He was one of the high profile signees in UK coach Mark Stoops’ first recruiting class after Brumbaugh joined Stoops’ staff.

“One reason I came here is because I know what he (Brumbaugh) is about and he has a lot of technique work to help me,” Smith said.

Smith, who did not play football until his final year of high school, has 16 solo stops and 19 assists this season. He has a team-high 5.5 quarterback sacks.

He says there’s no reason for him to question Brumbaugh, a former all-SEC defensive lineman, or complain about what he’s told to do to improve.

“Coming out of Mississippi like I did, I had to be tough about it. My first time away from home and having him to coach me is a great feeling,” Smith said. “This year has been hard at times, but it is a team effort and we just have to keep working. There is still a lot to come from me just getting better at playing the pass and run.”

He says end Bud Dupree, who had 13 tackles at Mississippi State and has a team-high 6.5 tackles for loss, and tackle Mister Cobble have helped him the most this season.

“Just when it gets tough, they tell me to cool out and it will get better soon,” Smith said.
Smith can get a bit emotional when he makes a big play.

“When I was little, I always watched football on Saturday and just wanted to be happy and play in this league. Now I am here and just want to give it all I’ve got,” he said.

Brumbaugh says Smith has given UK all he’s had, including playing in pain and not complaining whether he’s asked to move inside or continue to play when he’s tired.

“He played a lot of reps (against Alabama) and never came off the field and said, ‘Coach, I can’t go.’ He knows and tries to give his all every time out there. He never complains and you respect that,” Brumbaugh said.

Smith’s name has been mentioned as a possibility in next year’s NFL draft talk if he decided to bypass his second — and final — season at UK.

“Sometimes I do think about the NFL, but Coach (Brumbaugh) tells me not to worry and just play football. That’s easy to do, too, because I have so much to learn,” Smith said. “We have plenty left to do here. I felt great about being here. I like life here. Sometimes the weather gets me, but life here is good. So there’s no reason to worry about anything in the future.”

6 Responses to Brumbaugh says Za’Darius Smith ‘right where he should be’

  • Mike says:

    Sounds like Z is coming along just fine. I wish Brumbaugh would update us on the other guys.

  • Jeff says:

    Z and Bud will rule the SEC next year. With one more year under their belt, All I can say to a team trying to run the Football against those two is,,,,,,,,,,,,, Good Luck to ya

  • Woohop says:

    Coach Brumbaugh would have to be careful how much information he gives to Mike about the progress of his Defensive linemen. As Mike has said in an earlier commentary, he will hold any Coach accountable for every performance quality opinion shared with us. If Coach says the linemen are really progressing and are improving their performances, then if anyone has a tough game and makes mistakes, the “Mike ‘s of the World” will say that the Coaches promised superior performance and should be reprimanded since it didn’t happen immediately.

  • Ira says:

    Don’t think these coaches are worried about the “Mike’s” of the world. To many of them praised Joker and and his type of recruiting. While our SEC brethren were actually recruiting SEC quality recruits, we filled our rosters with MAC and C-USA recruits. Coach Stoops is paying for it, and we have to hear about it from the “Mike’s” about it.

    Think Z Smith should stay for his 2nd year. JUCO to SEC speed to the size of the linemen and RB’s he is facing totally different. What will he be facing trying to make the leap to the NFL. THE 2nd year will give him the edge neccessary to get in the NFL. Teach him the techniques and polish him more. Also hopefully get him some DLINEMEN that can help him as well. Look at Clowney, he isn’t there yet. There’s a few others. He needs to catch up. Next year will do that.

  • Edward says:

    Good post Ira, very good post!

  • gary ford says:

    If we had coaches doing their job and coaching the players up, we would be a top 10 or maybe a top 5 team at least according to a few of our more knowledgeable fans(i.e. like mike). I think our coaches are doing a fantastic job. when Coach Stoops turns our program around (I am very confident he will), a bunch of schools will be trying to hire him away. I just hope we can hold on to him. You can already see a change in the way we are playing. he is slowly but surely changing the culture of ky football(for the better). He has a lot of passion and it is rubbing off on the players. GREAT JOB COACHES!!

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