We are near the end of Alvin Dupree's ("Bud") time in Lexington after four increasingly impressive seasons. Originally, Dupree committed to Kentucky late in the 2011 recruiting cycle. Coming out of high school he was considered a "jumbo athlete" and I'm not sure if UK thought more of him as a tight end or defensive end. They eventually chose the latter, and he's played both defensive end and an outside linebacker hybrid in his four seasons.
His athletic capabilities will reach national attention in a few months at the combine, but his versatility has already been well-established, and his accomplishments are self-evident. In four seasons Bud has accomplished quite a bit, and he built on his legacy in his senior season. Heading into the season, he had 16 career sacks, and this season he's added 6.5 more as well as another 9.5 tackles for loss.
His production has regressed a bit this season, but he's a target for double-teams and he's asked to do more for the defense than just rush the passer. Moving from a "hand in the dirt" defensive end this season to a Swiss Army knife outside linebacker may have hurt his production, but it's definitely helped his draft status.
NFL Draft Talk
Dupree has accepted an invitation to The Senior Bowl, and The Sporting News names him the best senior among several really good players. Mel Kiper also projects him as a first round pick. If Dupree is drafted in the first round, he will be the first UK player drafted that early since Dewayne Robertson in 2003. In short, he lived up to the preseason hype.
I asked Dan Kadar of SB Nation's Mocking The Draft about his thoughts on Dupree:
The greatest thing going against Bud Dupree in the 2015 NFL Draft is the sheer number of pass rushers who will be available. Teams will be deciding between him, Dante Fowler of Florida, Markus Golden and Shane Ray of Missouri, Randy Gregory of Nebraska, Lorenzo Mauldin of Louisville and many others.
There is plenty to like about Dupree. His best traits are his athleticism and versatility. He can move around well enough to shift out to linebacker or stick at end. Dupree has really good speed for an edge rusher, and that should help him quite a bit in the NFL. Because he’s played so much for Kentucky, he seems to understand the nuances of the game as well.
Right now Dupree is projected a first-round pick, but he’s not a lock. There are a lot of edge rushers and some teams may be turned off by his average arm length and strength. If Dupree got a little stronger to shed blockers better, we’d really be penning him into the top 32 picks.
Let's Get Specific
At this point it may be useful to go over some specifics. I pulled some highlights from the recent Tennessee game that demonstrates Dupree's diverse impacts on a game.
Dupree has the abilities to be a great edge rusher as we well know. He continued to display that ability against Tennessee when he was left alone one-on-one against an offensive tackle. Using a "chop" technique he prevents the offensive tackle from locking him up, resulting in the tackle staggering off-balance and pass-blocking the air. After getting past the tackle he plants his outside foot, "points his toe", and takes a direct angle at the quarterback. Textbook.
With the running back leaving on a route, Dupree's got a clear shot to the quarterback. It all happens so quickly that on 3rd-and-long, the receivers haven't completed their deeper routes yet. The quarterback doesn't even see him despite not coming from the blind-side. He justifiably didn't anticipate a rusher getting to him that fast. And the cherry on top is the clean blow he delivers upon arrival.
I could watch it all day. If I wanted to get really hyperbolic I'd call this play Dupree's Fifth Symphony. His Folsom Prison album. His Blue Period. You get the idea.
Field Smarts and Versatility
At the snap of the ball in the video above, Dupree is nearly aligned head up on the slot receiver. This is something nickel backs or safeties typically do, but the coaches trust Dupree's speed and discipline enough to place him out there. Their trust is rewarded as Dupree quickly diagnoses the wide receiver screen, and then the 260 pounder chases down former five star receiver Josh Malone like he's fullback instead of a wide receiver.
The next video does a good job encapsulating Dupree's secondary effects, which is a way of saying that his presence provides opportunities for his teammates to make plays.
At the top of the screen Dupree draws a scrape block from the tight end who was placed in motion to Dupree's side prior to the snap. UT is sacrificing getting its tight end out on a route quickly in order to slow down Dupree. This makes pass coverage a little bit easier.
The offensive tackle is taking the tight end's help to block Dupree, but the offensive guard also looks to cheat over a step too. At one point three different blockers have had their hands on Dupree, and this helps to free up a blitzing Blake McClain who had the sack if he made the play. Without all the attention on Dupree, McClain probably gets picked up by the guard.
For the longest time in UK football lore, the number two was associated with Tim Couch. Against tall odds Dupree has added to the legacy of that number. The promise he showed as a true freshman in a game against Georgia blossomed into a legitimate defensive threat that any team in the country would quickly claim if given the opportunity.
He's been great on the field, a leader in the locker room by all accounts, and hasn't had any issues reported by the media away from the field.
He'll be missed.