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By LARRY VAUGHT
For the last six years, Kentucky has had at least one linebacker named to a postseason all-Southeastern Conference team, an accomplishment that UK linebacker Chuck Smith is proud of as he gets set to start his eighth season with the Wildcats.
He’s seen Wesley Woodyard, Braxton Kelley, Sam Maxwell, Micah Johnson, Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy all earn postseason honors.
“We have Wesley playing with the Broncos and so is Danny. Micah is still on the Bengals’ roster. Winston was a sixth-round draft pick of Seattle. Ronnie Sneed is a free agent with the Detroit Lions,” said Smith.
However, this is the first time he’s gone into a season without a full-time starter retuning as Trevathan, Guy and Sneed all graduated while Ridge Wilson was booted off the team in the offseason.
Still, Smith is optimistic he has future stars.
“Avery Williamson was a part-time starter with Sneed last year. He will be our mainstay in there in the middle,” Smith said. “He’s worked hard. He’s a great kid. He is just one of those guys who outworks everybody else and has done that all winter and summer. He has a chance to be really good.”
Smith feels the same about sophomore Alvin “Bud” Dupree, who worked his way into the playing rotation the second half of the 2011 season.
“He’s a special player and has a great chance to be a NFL guy, too. No question about it. He has those kind of tools,” Smith said.
The coach likes the swagger that Dupree, who started his freshman season at tight end before moving to linebacker, has shown, too.
“He says what he feels and what he is thinking, but it is always coming from his heart and if it comes from the heart you can never go wrong,” Smith said.
Another new starter likely will be junior Malcolm McDuffen.
“He has been in actually more than anybody doing extra studying and trying to catch up with the things he was behind on. He has done a pretty good job,” Smith said. “His spring game was not bad at all. Prior to that he didn’t have a good spring, but he picked it up in the spring game and he has done a good job over the summer. I think he has a chance here to be very good.”
The No. 1 hybrid linebacker should be sophomore Myles Simpson, a converted running back.
“He played safety in high school, but he gets here and like most high school kids he was used to just grabbing a sandwich, eating at McDonald’s, eating snacks. Then he gets here, goes on a steady routine and gets as much as he wants to eat,” Smith said. “He has blown up. He’s muscular. He became too big, too tight to be a running back. He’s maybe 220 (pounds) and has done a really nice and that’s why he’s projected to be a starter.”
Smith said not having a true returning starter or proven playmaker is not a daunting task.
“It is not scary because I think Avery and Alvin are both very, very, very capable. Avery wants to be that guy desperately and he lives it. I think Alvin is going to be a great player. He will develop as a leader as he gets older like Avery, but he is going to be a great player,” Smith said.
“I am anxious to get them all into training camp and see how much they have grown up and matured since spring practice. They had a good spring and have the attitude and leadership to be really good players. But potential and attitude are not any good unless you develop that talent and it’s my job to do that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore Alvin â€œBudâ€ Dupree is not overwhelmed with the idea of trying to offset the loss of sixth-roundâ€ˆNFL draft picks Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy, the top two tacklers in the Southeastern Conference last season.
â€œI set lofty goals for myself. One of my goals is to led the SEC in sacks and lead the NCAA. Not trying to compete with my teammates, but just to push them. I try to tell them little things Iâ€ˆam going to do so they can go hard too and aim for the same point,â€ said Dupree, who had 21 tackles in 12 games as a true freshman last season after being moved from tight end just before the season started.
He was an honor roll student in high school in Georgia and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. But on the field, he admits he can be a bit onery.
â€œOn the field, Iâ€ˆlove to talk a little trash and make people get a little fear in their heart. In football, my whole mindset changes on the field. You may see me as nice off the field, but between the lines Iâ€ˆchange a lot. I have always been outspoken. When Iâ€ˆplayed basketball, I was the same way. I am a person that likes to talk and make plays,â€ Dupree said.
He was good enough at Wilkinson County High School to help his team win the Class A state title. Thatâ€™s one reason he enjoyed watching coach John Calipariâ€™s play during their national championship season. But he also had one other interesting perspective on the team.
â€œI could have played with them if he (Calipari) had put me on the team,â€ Dupree said. â€œWhen we won the state championship, Iâ€ˆhad 10 (points) and 21 (rebounds). I could have played with them. I could have been a wing out there on the court in Rupp Arena.â€
However, both â€ˆUKâ€ˆcoach â€ˆJoker Phillips and defensive coordinator Rick Minter are glad they have Dupree on their team.
â€œI think Bud had a good, solid spring. He is a little bit beyond his years. He is not a typical freshman. He is mature. Physically he is pretty gifted and he is confident and an intelligent kid,â€ Minter said. â€œHe is a little further along than some of the guys at the same exact stage being here less than one year and the door being wide open for him to take over that rush backer spot. We have not been disappointed in him.â€
â€œDefensively, you keep hearing the buzz about Bud Dupree and you saw it. The guy is so fast off the edge. Heâ€™s what we have to block week in and week out. Heâ€™s a real guy. Heâ€™s an SEC outside linebacker/rush backer who makes plays,â€â€ˆPhillips said.
That should continue to get easier because Dupree says by the time spring practice ended, he had â€œlearned the playbook betterâ€ and was far more familiar with the plays after coming to UKâ€ˆexpecting to be a big-play tight end who could stretch the field in the passing game.
â€œIt has been interesting. I thought Iâ€ˆwould play offense, but Iâ€ˆhad to switch over and help my team. I wanted to play offense and came in with an offensive mind, but knew Iâ€ˆcould do this on defense,â€ Dupree said. â€œI could have done the same thing either way. I just wanted to play. I was fine with the move.
â€œI like the system that (linebacker) coach (Chuck) smith and coach Minter teach and the way they get me to the quarterback and get me out in pass coverage. Coach Minterâ€™s system is very good. It throws a lot of schemes at people as well as different types of blitz zones, pass coverages and things you think you can expect which turns into something else.â€
Dupree doesnâ€™t see his coachesâ€™ praise as pressure even though UKâ€ˆis coming off a disappointing 5-7 season.
â€œI like it. I like the publicity and exposure. I just have to show everybody what I can do and have people countÂ on me,â€ Dupree said. â€œI like that people are not expecting much out of us so we can show them we are better. I think we are going be a whole lot better than people think. We are not going to be a scrub team. I am pretty sure we are going to be a good team.â€
Heâ€™s not worried about UKâ€ˆhaving four new starting linebackers, either.
â€œWe play together well. We play as a whole crew together. If one person messes up, Avery (Williamson) will tell us about our plays. If somebodyÂ makes a mistake, somebody will cover up for him,â€ Dupree said. â€œI always try to play full speed. If I do make a mistake, Iâ€ˆcan always keep running and go make the tackle. It might not look like a mistake, but if I look at tape it will be one.
â€œMy coverage has got better and my run stopping has got better. I am a good run stopper now, but also a good pass rusher. Everything is coming together.â€
He says one reason is because he spent more time studying film this spring.
â€œI have to learn how Kentucky football works and how coach Minterâ€™s system works. The things Iâ€ˆdidnâ€™t know out of high school, Iâ€ˆhave learned and I am more familiar with the defense than I was. Things are coming into place,â€ Dupree said. â€œI like studying film. I like watching my mistakes because Iâ€ˆhate messing up. I donâ€™t mess up that much, but if I do I want to know how to correct it and make sure I donâ€™t do it again.â€ˆIf I mess up one thing, I am not going to do it again. Iâ€ˆtry to get it to where Iâ€ˆnever make the same mistake twice.â€
By LARRY VAUGHT
When Kentucky first started recruiting him, Alvin Dupree admits he knew very little about UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†football. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really not any news about Kentucky football in Georgia. Until they started recruiting me, I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know but then IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†found out more about them,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Dupree.
Kentucky fans could be finding out more about him Ã¢â‚¬â€ maybe as early as Saturday Ã¢â‚¬â€ if linebacker coach Chuck Smith is right.
Dupree came to UK thinking he would play tight end, but was moved to linebacker to add to UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s depth and take advantage of his athleticism early in preseason practice.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is making progress. When he first came over (to defense), of course, he catches everybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eye because he flies around makes plays and shows great, not good, but great potential,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Smith. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Then he starts to learn the system and what to do and it kind of bogs him down and slows him down.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He has got a chance to be a great player, but right now he is learning the system and learning what to do. He is just a typical freshman and it is not uncommon. All these freshmen kind of go through this process and the process that is hanging him up right now is knowing the information and then executing the information on the field. I think he is learning it but then he has to execute with what he sees. That is just a typical lack of experience, age, maturity that all of them experience.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, with starting linebacker Ridge Wilson battling a shoulder injury suffered in last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s win over Mississippi, Dupree could find himself playing a lot more at Vanderbilt Saturday even though coach Joker Phillips saidÃ‚Â that Wilson had been cleared to play.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He was a little bit behind the rest of them because he did come in as a tight end, but we could see his potential as being a great defensive player. I think he eventually will. I think getting the few snaps he is getting and getting to play on the speciality teams has put him a whole lot further ahead next year when he comes in. I will be surprised if he is not working as a starter,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smith said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He could easily be one of the four best potentially we have next year and this could be a big chance for him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The 6-4, 230-pound Dupree was rated as one of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top 50 tight ends following his senior season at Wilkinson County High School in Irwinton, Ga. But he also started on defense.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At the end of camp IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†got switched to defense because they told me I could play quicker on defense, so I just went with it,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dupree said.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am getting time to make plays here and now. IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†try to watch Winstson (Guy), Danny (Trevathan) and get the mindset of those players and be like them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dupree says he can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, one reason the UK coaches initially thought Dupree could provide a needed deep threat at tight end before deciding to move him to defense.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I came here thinking IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†could help at tight end,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dupree said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Å“I run and catch the football, but I can also block. IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†am pretty much an all-around player. I like to play physical, hard-nose football because that is the way I was brought up. I thought I could stretch defenses.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He spent the summer catching passes from Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith. He worked out with freshman quarterback Bookie Cobbins, too. He says returning tight ends Jordan Aumiller and Nick Melillo tutored him all summer.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Coach (Randy) Sanders sold me on being part of the offense and doing a lot of versatile things with where IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†lined up as a tight end. He told me I could do a lot of things to help the offense out and maybe do it early,Ã¢â‚¬Â Dupree admitted. Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had some second thoughts (about moving to defense), but the coaches made the decsion and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m fine with it. You use the same speed, power and quickness at linebacker that you do at tight end.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But it did surprise me when they moved me. I thought I was going to be more of an offensive player. I just moved over. It will be all right. All the folks at home they still think I should be on offense, but I told them bear with me and it would be all right. I try not to let stuff get me down. I only got one life, so I have to live it to the fullest and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m enjoying defense.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Smith has coached Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson, Braxton Kelley, Sam Maxwell, Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy at Kentucky. Smith says Dupree could eventually be regarded the same way those players are.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no question about it. He has great potential, he really does. He is aggressive guy. He runs really well. He is long. He will end up being thick once he gets into the weight room and gets acclimated to that for an offseason. He has a chance to be a great player. Not a good player, but a great player,Ã¢â‚¬Â Smith said.