Going into his junior year at Kentucky, former three-star tight end prospect Alvin “Bud” Dupree was finding his own as a converted pass-rusher in Lexington. Despite coming off a 91-tackle, 12.5-tackle for loss, 6.5-sack year in 2012, though, the 2-10 Kentucky football team was looking for a change of scenery at the head coaching position in a crucial year for Dupree.
Kentucky opted to replace Joker Phillips with Mark Stoops, a defensive guru out of Florida State, who had turned that unit into a perennial powerhouse in Tallahassee. Taking over a depleted roster, Stoops desperately needed a star talent to give fans a rooting interest during the start of a difficult rebuild, while Dupree needed a platform to boost his NFL stock during his final years of eligibility.
They were a match made in heaven.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Dupree totaled 135 total tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and a pick-six, establishing himself as one of the best edge rushers in the SEC and a surefire first-round draft selection. Stoops followed his two-win debut season in 2013 with a 5-7 year immediately after, with the highest-rated recruiting class in Kentucky history – at the time – also coming in 2014.
Dupree was drafted No. 22 overall to Pittsburgh in 2015, while Kentucky tied or surpassed the previous year’s win total in each of the next four seasons under Stoops, capped off by a 10-win season in 2018.
While he wishes he could have led the Wildcats to more victories during his time in Lexington, Dupree takes pride in the fact that he was one of the “cornerstone” pieces to get the Mark Stoops era started off on a positive note.
“It’s great to be kind of a cornerstone for the program,” Dupree told KSR following Pittsburgh’s 16-10 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday. “When I was there, we took pride in trying to take that program to the next level and take that next step. We couldn’t push us over that hump yet, but they’ve done that since. Stoops has done a great job making everything happen for the [program].”
Running out of the tunnel at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Dupree noticed an increased number of Kentucky fans throughout the stands there to see him and his newest Steeler teammate, Benny Snell.
With so many members of the Big Blue Nation there to support the former Wildcats, he said it felt “like a home game.”
“It’s always good to play in Cincinnati, it’s like a home game for us,” Dupree told KSR. “Benny is here now and Kentucky fans are here to see us. Just for Kentucky fans to come here and get a glimpse of us after our time there in college, it was a lot of fun.”
Down 16-10 with just under three minutes to go in the game, the Bengals took over on offense with an opportunity to secure the victory with a touchdown.
With the game on the line, Dupree beat Cincinnati left tackle Cordy Glenn on the snap and met quarterback Ryan Finley in the backfield to force a strip-sack, recovered by the former Wildcat.
Snell and the Pittsburgh offense took over in the red zone and managed to run the clock out, holding on to the victory and keeping their postseason dreams alive.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) November 24, 2019
“It was great, it was really great,” Dupree told KSR. “The guys did a great job making him step up, I came around and made a big play.”
While the current Pittsburgh Steeler was the first elite pass-rusher during the Mark Stoops era, Dupree also wanted to praise his record-breaking successor on the outside: Josh Allen.
Allen arrived in Lexington in 2015, the same year Dupree graduated and left the program. In his four years, the dynamic pass-rusher totaled 224 tackles, 41.0 tackles for loss, 31.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, 11 forced fumbles, eight PBUs, two fumble recoveries, one blocked kick, and one interception.
In the process, Allen not only surpassed Dupree’s mark as the No. 2 sack leader in school history, but he also broke Oliver Barnett’s all-time record.
For Dupree, he’s proud of Allen not only picking up where he left off, but continuing that in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Watching Josh blossom has been great,” Dupree told KSR. “And seeing him in Jacksonville now doing the same thing, it’s awesome man. Knowing that Stoops has developed a guy like that, I wish I had four years with him. It’s always great seeing Kentucky [players find success].”