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By KEITH TAYLOR, The Winchester Sun
Bud Dupree has never lacked for motivation when it comes to playing football. Along with his own love for the sport, the Kentucky defensive end has noticed a new wave of excitement around campus since coach Mark Stoops arrived last winter.
“I can feel a different vibe than what we could feel last year around this time, from the fans, people at home, the coaches and the players,” Dupree said earlier this week. “The attitude has changed. You see it on the internet, on campus and when you go home and visit your family. I’m just happy the football buzz has come back around so we can push it in the right direction. There’s more enthusiasm and the atmosphere has changed.”
He added that the arrival of the new coaching staff, led by Stoops, combined with the “hard work” the players have been “putting in” helped lead to the excitement surrounding the program.
“A lot of players are putting in more extra work and we’re having fun,” he said. “They understand that we’re trying to push the program in the right direction.
“The change has happened right before our eyes and the coaches are doing everything they can to help us. They’re bringing in great players and doing great things in the weight room. As a player, we take note of that and we’re just trying to help get them in the right direction, too.”
Dupree has enjoyed learning new schemes from defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. He added that Eliot also has energized the defense.
“Coach Eliot is a great coach,” he said. “He’s very enthusiastic and he wants everything to be done the right way. We’re just trying to follow him as a leader (of the defense) and take the right path.”
Dupree, a junior and one of the team leaders on defense, will move back to defensive end after playing mainly at linebacker last season where he excelled playing behind the team’s defensive line. He started all 12 games and finished with 91 tackles, 10th in the Southeastern Conference. His tackles included 12.5 for a loss and 6.5 quarterback sacks, ranking him seventh in the league in both categories.
Entering the season opener against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 at LP Field in Nashville, Dupree has started 15 straight contests and appeared in all 24 games in his first two seasons.
“Adjusting back to the defensive line is not hard, but it’s challenging at times,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to me (where I play) either at end or outside linebacker, I’m fine with it. As long as I’m on the outside of the defense, I’ll be fine with it. I’m really comfortable at being a defensive player. I’m just trying to get better and be the best (player) I can be.”
Dupree said the unit’s top priority is defensive takeaways and putting points on the board.
“We want to score on defense this year — score,” he said. “We want to get a lot of three and outs and make stops. If we win by seven points, we just want to be able to win a game. We want to be able to stop other teams (from scoring). We want to score so the offense can feel like we’ve got their back at any time.”
Dupree said the heavy emphasis of scoring points on offense and the Air Raid attack won’t put pressure on the defensive unit.
“It will help us out and keep is motivated (on defense),” he said. “When the offense scores, the defense will want to go out there and shut (the other team down) so the offense can get back on the field as well. The team is very defensive-oriented now and we’re just trying to be physical and tough and hard-nosed. We’re just trying to be the best in everything we can.”