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A closer look at Dupree's career game, strong junior season

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Bud Dupree had a career-high 13 tackles in UK's game at Mississippi State last Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree had a career-high 13 tackles in UK's game at Mississippi State last Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Playing in front of a national-television audience and through injury, Bud Dupree had his coming-out party.

The junior defensive end/linebacker tallied a career-high 13 tackles, two half-sacks and two tackles for loss. Dupree was in the backfield throughout Kentucky's Thursday-night game at Mississippi State and nearly led the Wildcats to a comeback win.

Viewers needed only to watch Dupree to realize he was one of the best players on the field that night, but a deeper dive into play-by-play data reveals exactly how impactful his presence was. Here's a look at the plays on which he made each of his tackles.

  • Dak Prescott run (Gain of three yards)
  • LaDarius Perkins run (Gain of three yards)
  • Perkins run (Gain of four yards)
  • Josh Robinson run (Gain of five yards)
  • Robinson run (Gain of three yards)
  • Prescott pass to Jameon Lewis (No gain)
  • Prescott sacked (Loss of 18 yards)
  • Perkins run (Gain of three yards)
  • Nick Griffin run (Gain of three yards)
  • Perkins run (Gain of six yards, first down)
  • Prescott run (No gain)
  • Perkins run (Loss of two yards)
  • Prescott sacked (Loss of nine yards)
  • 13 tackles for a total gain of one yard

So, Mississippi State gained an average of 0.077 yards on the 13 tackles Dupree made. None of those plays went for longer than six yards and only one resulted in a first down.

Offering a little perspective, Dupree's game against Mississippi State is one of seven double-digit tackle efforts by a UK defender this season (four by Avery Williamson and one each by Eric Dixon and Khalid Henderson). The smallest yards-per-tackle average in any of those games was when Louisville averaged 5.5 yards on Williamson's 15 tackles. Granted, Dupree plays a different position, but the difference is notable nonetheless.  

Going back to the Mississippi State game, let's see how the UK defense performed when Dupree was not involved in the play.

Discounting the plays in which Dupree was involved, the Bulldogs gained 446 yards on 66 plays, an average of 6.8 yards per play. Not counting the one first down Mississippi State gained on a penalty, the Bulldogs gained first downs on exactly one-third of the plays that did not end in a Dupree tackle.

As impressive as all those numbers may be, those who have watched Dupree all season know his game against Mississippi State didn't come out of nowhere.

Dupree now has been involved in 40 tackles (32 on runs, two on passes and six on full or partial sacks) on plays from scrimmage this season (for the purposes of this post, we'll ignore the one special-teams stop he made against WKU). Opponents have gained an average of just 1.5 yards on those plays. On the 382 plays on which anyone other than Dupree makes a tackle, opponents have averaged 7.88 yards. Taking it a step further, opponents have gained just five first downs when Dupree makes a tackle (or 12.5 percent of those plays) and 142 when anyone else does (37.2 percent).

(Note: Incomplete passes are not included in the above calculations.)

It's also worth pointing out just how much Dupree is thriving in his first season playing in UK's new defense. A season ago, Dupree had 88 tackles from scrimmage on which opponents gained 21 first downs (23.9 percent) and an average of 3.5 yards per play. He has improved significantly in both measures in a more settled role this season, which makes sense given Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot's history of developing pass rushers.

Regardless why it's happening, Dupree's emergence, whether you're using statistics or the eye test to gauge it, is unmistakable.

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