By ASHLEY SCOBY
Bud Dupree may not know all the X’s and O’s of playing defensive end yet. But he sure likes to hit people.
That quality, among others, is why the coaching staff is high on Dupree’s position switch. The junior, who played primarily at outside linebacker last year, has been switched to the line with the arrival of the new coaching staff. His enjoyment of physical contact has been a big part of his success so far.
“I like contact,” he said with a smile. “I like hard-nosed football.”
Playing for the first time significantly at defensive end has been a transition for Dupree, but one that he is used to as someone who has switched positions “forever.” The motivation to be the best defensive end he can be has showed itself so far to the coaching staff.
“I love Bud,” said defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh. “He comes to work every single day. He’s what you love to coach because he’s a guy that wants to be better. I sent him a text and said, ‘Hey, let’s get better next week.’ He says, ‘Hey, I just want to be good, Coach.’ When you have guys like that that want to work, those little things will come.”
Those “little things” include the basics of playing defensive end, especially at the SEC level.
“I’m used to the fast pace so it’s just really technique,” Dupree said. “When you’re going really fast and (using) techniques I haven’t done before, it’s pretty hard.”
Although difficult at first, Dupree has been excited about the transition. Knowing the success that UK defensive coordinator DJ Eliot and head coach Mark Stoops had with defensive linemen at Florida State has made him even more excited to start practicing with a hand on the ground this season.
At the other end position is newcomer Za’Darius Smith, a highly-ranked JUCO player who will add some size and athleticism to the line. He is listed at 6’6 and 257 pounds, and had played previously under Brumbaugh. The coach has been using Smith during demonstrations for the rest of the team.
“He’s the guy that understands what I’m looking for and how to do things,” Brumbaugh said. “He’s still learning because it’s a different pace from junior college to here when you’ve got good athletic offensive tackles and tight ends. He’s still learning the speed of the game here.”
Although still adjusting to the speed, much like Dupree is adjusting to learning new techniques, both players show the raw potential that the coaching staff is looking for.
That potential at the defensive end position will be even more important now that Donte Rumph is out indefinitely with a “fairly significant” injury. Rumph, at defensive tackle, had been one of the most consistent players on the defensive side, according to Brumbaugh.
With that injury, the rest of the line now has to fill some important (and fairly large) shoes.
“Somebody’s got to step up and be that nucleus of players,” Brumbaugh said. “You’re going to lose players and the biggest thing is that’s why I push my second team and third team guys to get reps so that they get better. Now you’re going to have a drop-off but the thing of it is, can you still function and win ball games?”
With the potential success coming out of the budding defensive end position, that drop-off on the line could be less significant than coaches expect. Although Dupree and Smith are both new to playing as SEC defensive ends, their raw explosiveness and speed will be assets.
That desire to hit people could come in handy too.