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Dupree, defensive line impressing early in spring practice

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Bud Dupree had 91 tackles, 12.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2012. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree had 91 tackles, 12.5 for loss and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2012. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Bud Dupree knows all about the history Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot have with defensive ends.

He doesn't need to be told about what Bjoern Werner and Cornelius Carradine did the last two years at Florida State. He's keenly aware of the 44.5 sacks they combined to register in 2011 and 2012 and where the pair stands in the latest NFL Draft projections.

Needless to say, he likes what he's seen.

"My eyes light up when I see that," Dupree said. "Hopefully they have two first-round picks this year."

The 6-foot-4, 254-pound junior has spent the first three practices of the spring at the same defensive-end spot where Werner and Carradine starred the last two seasons. It's early, but the coaches like Dupree just as much he likes his coaches' track record.

"Bud Dupree is extremely athletic for his size," Eliot said after practice on Friday, UK's first in pads. "I think he's got a chance to be a very good defensive end. Fundamentally right now, he's not where he needs to be, but he's working on it every day."

Dupree spent most of his freshman season at defensive end in UK's hybrid front. As a sophomore, he moved primarily to linebacker, totaling 91 tackles, 12.5 for loss and a team-best 6.5 sacks. His versatility is forcing Stoops and Eliot into a decision on where he will play in a new 4-3 base scheme.

He is listed at defensive end only in UK's spring guide and has worked there exclusively thus far. Dupree, though, isn't sure just yet whether end is where he will play in the fall. So long as he's in position go after the quarterback, Dupree doesn't much care.

"Whichever, I don't care," Dupree said when asked of his preference between end and linebacker. "I want to have sacks though."

Considering FSU's defensive ends combined for 26.5 sacks last year and the linebackers had just three, end seems to be his likely landing spot. Dupree's performance so far this spring only serves to strengthen that idea.

In three practices, Dupree and his fellow linemen have been the standouts on UK's defense. The linebackers and backs have shown flashes, but the line under Jimmy Brumbaugh - with ends Za'Darius Smith and Farrington Huguenin and tackles Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble and Tristian Johnson - has been impossible to ignore.

"I think the defensive line is doing a really good job," Eliot said. "They've got some veteran players up there, so they have some guys that are used to game action. So far, they have caught my eye."

As experienced as many of those players may be, Smith has a leg up even though he's never played a down at the Division I level. The 6-foot-6, 257 pounder played last season at East Mississippi Community College, the same junior college where Brumbaugh coached last season.

"Za'Darius is doing a nice job," Stoops said. "I noticed him a few times out there, had some nice plays today. He's doing good, and he's ahead. He knows Coach Brumbaugh's techniques and how we want to play fundamentally defensively, so he's doing a nice job."

Dupree went so far as to call Smith a coach on the field.

"Z, he's a very physical guy," Dupree said. "He knows a lot more than we do because he was with Coach Brumbaugh already at JUCO. He's ahead, he's the line leader and just calling the drills and he's showing us things Coach Brumbaugh taught him."

What Eliot hopes, though, is that it won't take the others long to catch up. Florida State succeeded with a defensive system that relied on simplicity to put players in a position to make plays. Eliot wants players to eventually know their roles so well it's not even necessary to think on the field.

"I hope as a coach that my scheme is never hard for the players, so I hope that's accurate (that the scheme is simple)," Eliot said. "I think our guys are picking it up pretty quick. Our philosophy is we want to be multiple, but we want to be simple for the players."

Dupree isn't completely up to speed just yet, but he understands what Eliot is talking about.

"It's very simple," Dupree said. "We've got a lot of schemes, but it all pretty much flows in the same category. We just know what to do when we line up and not think too much."

Eventually, Dupree wants to reach the point where the only thing on his mind during passing plays is to get the quarterback. If he can do that, Dupree can picture himself and his teammates shaking hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just like Werner and Carradine will in a little more than a month.

"Maybe that will be me and Z in the future," Dupree said. "And Farrington also."

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