Bud Dupree possess an unique combination of size and speed that allows him to play a host of positions on the defensive side of the football, and throughout this season he has done just that. Early on, Kentucky’s defense had trouble containing the opposing team’s running game and generating pass rush. This prompted a mid-season scheme change for the Wildcats, which featured more four-man fronts and increased playing time for DE Taylor Wyndham. With Kentucky needing Wyndham’s senior leadership on the field more often than not, Dupree became the odd man out. Wyndham is best suited to be a hand-in-the-ground 4-3 pass rusher, so when Kentucky switched from a 4-3 base to defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s 3-4 hybrid scheme, he struggled to find a position and fell out of rotation.
“Taylor’s like a man without a home in this defense,” said defensive line coach David Turner. “But he brings other intangibles to the field such as leadership, intelligence and good technique.”
Wyndham wasn’t stout enough to play the five-technique DE, a staple position in the 3-4 defense, but wasn’t really fit to play outside linebacker, either. Still, Kentucky had to find a way to get him on the field and moving Wyndham to Dupree’s position was the best option.
Dupree was then moved to weakside (will) linebacker, a position that didn’t have a regular starter (Tyler Brause and Malcolm McDuffen switched back and forth to begin the season), and was regarded as the most inconsistent position of the defense’s front seven. This was a new territory for Dupree. Initially, he was recruited by offensive coordinator Randy Sanders to play tight end, but Kentucky coaches felt he could be better utilized as a pass rusher. Dupree had some previous pass rushing experience from his time as a two-way player at Wilkinson County High School in Georgia, but playing weakside linebacker would present a new challenge.
“It’s going to take some time for him to adjust,” said inside linebacker Avery Williamson after Dupree’s first start at will linebacker. “It’s a whole new position so change isn’t going to happen overnight.”
Despite the circumstances, Dupree has done an outstanding job in his new position. Through ten games, Dupree has 73 tackles, 7.5 TFL, and 3.5 sacks. That’s good for second on the team in tackles and team best in the latter categories.
With a new coach coming to Kentucky next year, there’s a lot of questions for the program going forward. One of those will be defensive scheme. I’ve always maintained that a 4-3 scheme is easier to run, especially for college teams. The responsibilities lessen, meaning you would be required to do a couple of things at a great level as opposed to doing a lot of things at a mediocre one. Kentucky had a ton of success with a 4-3 scheme under former head coach Rich Brooks, sending a number of players to the NFL during that time.
One of the names that has surfaced for Kentucky’s head coaching opening is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Smart runs a 3-4 hybrid defensive scheme that is similar to Minter’s current one. Obviously, if he is hired, Kentucky would stay with the scheme and continue to improve at it. With any other hire though, I believe that Wildcats will be a 4-3 defense next year, which makes you wonder — exactly where would Dupree play in a 4-3 scheme?
With all the success Dupree has had at will linebacker, lining him up at strictly as a pass rusher in a 4-3 scheme would limit his new found versatility. On the other hand, freshman Khalid Henderson has spelled Dupree at the position throughout the year, and has all the tools to make it his full-time position going forward. Wherever Kentucky’s next coach decides to play Dupree, he has a guy that on his team that will be able to wreck havoc on opposing offenses for the next couple of years. The Wildcats will bring back a ton of young talent with in-game experience that should have Kentucky fans excited for the future.