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Smith, Dupree looking like defensive building blocks at end

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Bud Dupree had 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2012. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree had 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2012. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
As front offices have grown more sophisticated, three positions have emerged as the most important on NFL rosters.

Quarterbacks touch the ball on every snap and direct offenses that rely on the pass more and more. Left tackles protect those quarterbacks, ensuring they need not worry about getting hit from the blind side.

Defensive ends, meanwhile, are tasked with disrupting all of that.

If Saturday's Blue/White Spring Game is any indication, Kentucky might have a pair of ends with quite a talent for disruption in Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith.

"They're both fast," quarterback Jalen Whitlow said. "They've got safety speed, almost. Bud is a freak and Za'Darius is long and strong and fast. They're both pretty good players."

When he was playing for the White team, Whitlow had to be constantly aware of where Smith and Dupree were. Smith had six tackles, including one for loss, while Dupree had a sack of Maxwell Smith. That production came in spite of the fact that two-hand-touch rules applied to the UK quarterbacks throughout the four-quarter scrimmage.

"If it was a live game and we were live on the quarterbacks, I think they could have created some havoc," head coach Mark Stoops said. "They did a nice job, they are very active and have been very solid all spring."

Since Smith and Dupree couldn't make their presence felt with hits, they made sure they were heard.

"They can't tackle us, so they talk to us a lot -- about how they wish they could tackle us and how they would do us if they could," Whitlow said.

Smith - who lined up at right end opposite left tackle Darrian Miller most of the evening - estimated he would have had "two or three" sacks had the quarterbacks been fair game.

"I don't even want to think about it just because that excites me when I make a sack," Smith said, adding the 50,831 fans in Commonwealth Stadium made following the don't-hit-the-quarterback rules even more painful.

It's no secret that the Wildcats have much work ahead of them at linebacker and in the secondary. But if Smith and Dupree produce at the level they believe they can, it could serve as an eraser of sorts for the defense as a whole.

"If you can get some pressure with four guys, then you can put another guy in the coverage," Stoops said. "So that's a big part of it and also in the run game, if you can learn to play the run game without numbers all the time, then that helps your defense, as well."

Avery Williamson is particularly excited about that prospect. The middle linebacker led UK by a wide margin in tackles last season, but he made just seven on Saturday.

"Last year it was kind of like I was making every tackle, so it was kind of weird not having to make every tackle," Williamson said.

The senior certainly doesn't mind if he doesn't match his 135 tackles from 2012.

"I'm just worried about winning," Williamson said. "The rest will take care of itself."

Smith admits he's worried about sacks too. The good news for UK is that wins are likely to follow if he and Dupree spend as much as time in opposing backfields as they believe.

"When we play in a real game, we feel sorry for the quarterback that we're going to play against," Smith said.

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