Sun Oct 27 09:35pm EDT
When I talked to Bud Dupree last week, one of his comments surprised me.
I asked how he'd evaluate his play in the first half of the year. I -- and his coaches -- thought he'd been playing pretty well. Dupree had less to say.
"I feel like I'd been playing OK," Dupree said. "I could be playing a lot better. Hopefully the second half of the season I can make a lot more plays for my team."
He started doing just that against Mississippi State, racking up 13 tackles and a sack.
He was clearly, as defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot has called him, the best play on Kentucky's defense.
Let's take a look at some components of Dupree's great game.
Dupree's biggest contribution is a pass rush off the edge (and this is especially important with Za'Darius Smith's production waning in SEC play). He can do that from a defensive end or outside linebacker spot.
Check out two sacks that showcase Dupree's variety of moves, which he said was a point of emphasis over the summer as he transitioned to playing defensive end more often.
In this one, with UK sending just a four-man rush, Dupree beats the right tackle to the inside with a swim move before chasing down the quarterback. Others were involved in the play, but it was Dupree's quick burst through the offensive line that set everything in motion.
And here's another, at the end of the game, when Mark Stoops and Eliot sent a six-man rush on fourth down with the game hanging in the balance. The numbers overwhelmed State's offensive line, but Dupree was again the catalyst. He beat his man to the outside this time, using his speed and quickness to burst around the edge.
Containing the Edge
Dupree talked last week about the responsibilities of the defensive end against the read-option, a play Mississippi State loves to run (unlike any other opponent UK has faced so far). Maintaining his gap and staying solid on the edge was crucial, he said, and he played the read-option well throughout the game.
For the most part, Dupree maintained the edge, leading to State quarterback Dak Prescot keeping the ball for himself. But Dupree has enough athleticism to dive inside to assist on a tackle once Prescot made his choice. Check him out here, at the top of the defensive line.
Stopping the run
Dupree played a lesser role in this, as Mississippi State preferred to run up the middle (and to the other side of Dupree). But he had one play that showed how nimble and quick the former linebacker is.
On a run to the right edge, Mississippi State's right tackle tries to chop block Dupree (bottom of the defensive line), diving at his legs to take him out. Dupree hops back, avoiding the brunt of the hit and staying on his feet, then recovers quickly enough to lunge out and take the running back down for a two-yard loss.
All told,Dupree was a monster against Mississippi State, even playing at less than 100 percent. With a defense that still needs some work (but is showing significant improvement for the future, I believe), Kentucky needs more of the same down the stretch from Dupree.