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Notebook: Cats go back to work with Vandy next

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Sophomore Bud Dupree leads UK with 6.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team in tackles (64) and sacks (3.5). (Chet White, UK Athletics) Sophomore Bud Dupree leads UK with 6.5 tackles for loss and is second on the team in tackles (64) and sacks (3.5). (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Like any high-level college athlete, sophomore linebacker Bud Dupree always despised losing.

He had always been familiar with the empty feeling that comes after falling short in a game. But nine weeks into this Kentucky football season, Dupree has come to hate losing in a new way. He's discovered that, in addition to the emotional pain of losing, there's a physical side to it too.

"After a loss, you find out everything that's wrong with your body," Dupree said. "You'll find out your finger's hurting, your toes hurt, somebody stepped on the back of your calf, the front of your shin. After a win, you probably won't even know you're hurt until like two days later."

In the wake of UK's 33-10 loss at Missouri, Dupree doesn't have any injuries that will force him to miss time, but he has plenty of bumps and bruises he's feeling acutely with the Wildcats in the midst of a seven-game losing streak.

The Cats, in spite of the final score, felt they could have beaten Missouri, which only made the loss worse. Even so, there's only one thing to do with Vanderbilt coming to town for a game on Saturday (noon on ESPNU).

"Don't think about it," Dupree said when asked about UK's approach. "Just put it in the past and try to beat Vanderbilt."

On Tuesday, UK will get back down to business on the practice field. With losses mounting and a bowl berth no longer a possibility, that may seem a monotonous task, but UK head coach Joker Phillips has no concerns over whether his team will be ready to go. Anyone who has seen a Kentucky practice in recent weeks would agree.

"I've had a lot of guys, friends come to practice and ex players, and all of them talk about how upbeat and energetic practice is," Phillips said.

Phillips credits the senior leadership of players like Collins Ukwu and Taylor Wyndham in helping to demand that kind of unwavering effort, but also sees UK's youth as playing a factor. In recruiting players to Kentucky, Phillips and his staff offer nothing more than an opportunity to compete, but injuries and other circumstances have forced youngsters into prominent roles. Their eagerness has injected energy into the program.

"Those young kids are just excited to play," Phillips said. "Not only they came here in hopes of playing, but when you come on campus and that's what it is. It's hopes of playing. You don't expect to."

Harmon emerging in defensive backfield

Cornerback J.D. Harmon is one of those players getting his first opportunity to see the field, and he isn't squandering it.

He earned a spot in the rotation in fall camp and has only seen his role expand, culminating in the Missouri game. The Paducah, Ky., native had seven tackles against the Tigers and a pair of interceptions. The two picks came on back-to-back defensive plays in the third quarter.

Harmon's story is an interesting one. He was offered a scholarship, but did not commit right away and, as a result, lost his spot. Eventually, he decided he wanted to play for his home-state school, scholarship or not.

His options were limited though. He could either gray-shirt and delay his enrollment by a year or enroll immediately and walk on. Harmon didn't want to wait, so he came to UK, paying his own way and even forgoing academic scholarship money so he could join the team right away.

"For him to do that speaks volumes because he had to give up some academic money to do it," Phillips said. "Otherwise, he would count (against UK's scholarship limits) because he was a recruited walk on. He would count on our scholarship numbers. He had to give up some academic money to come in and play. I'm really happy that he did get here."

When he arrived, Harmon worked out as a wide receiver, but those plans quickly changed. Redshirt freshman cornerback Marcus Caffey was ruled academically ineligible, meaning there was a hole in the secondary. Phillips and UK's positional coaches had not yet seen him in action, but strength and conditioning coach Rock Oliver told them the 6-foot-2, 197 pounder was well-suited to make the move to corner.

"This summer, we knew we might lose a defensive back," Phillips said. "Coach Rock said this guy was definitely talented enough to play it because he had worked with him all summer. So we decided to move him, and it's worked out well for not only him but us also."

Depth chart and injury news

For the first time, freshman Patrick Towles is listed on the depth chart at quarterback. He is listed as the backup to Jalen Whitlow and the two are once again expected to split time against Vandy ... Junior Patrick Ligon is the new starter at tight end ahead of Ronnie Shields ... Starters at the two cornerback positions are Cody Quinn OR J.D. Harmon and Carter Rice OR Fred Tiller ... Freshman linebacker Pancho Thomas dislocated a bone in his wrist against Missouri. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday but could return after UK's bye week against Samford wearing a cast ... Defensive tackle Donte Rumph (knee), Quinn (hamstring), tight end Tyler Robinson (back) are all day-to-day ... Linebacker Jabari Johnson is doubtful with a hamstring injury.

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