Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has been around two edge rushers in his coaching career who were first-round draft picks -- Jerome McDougle at Miami and, more recently, Bjoern Werner at Florida State -- and Wednesday, Stoops said he thinks the Wildcats just might have a defensive end who belongs in that class in Bud Dupree.
"At Florida State, we had quite a few guys there: Bjoern, Tank (Carradine), Brandon Jenkins, a lot of good players," Stoops said. "Going back, even some guys at Arizona we had and all the way back to Miami, I put Bud up there with the best I've ever been around or had the pleasure to coach."
At 264 pounds, Dupree is considered an undersized defensive end, but Stoops said he is convinced the big scouting concern for players like him -- whether they can switch to linebacker in the NFL and also be effective in pass coverage -- will be no problem for Dupree. Dupree has made 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss this season, numbers that Stoops says are deceiving.
"If we were just doing what we did at Florida State, putting his hand in the dirt and letting him rush the passer every snap, his numbers would be through the roof," Stoops said. "We're doing an awful lot with him right now because he is so versatile. He drops half the time and rushes half the time, so his production as far as sacks and tackles for loss aren't as high as they would be if we were just playing four down all the time. That's what's going to help him at the next level. I think he'll be an outside 'backer who will really be able to do anything they want at the next level. I think that's why he'll be a high pick."
An NFL scout echoed much of what Stoops said in an interview with Sports Illustrated, and projected Dupree as a first-round pick. Before the season, Stoops also called Dupree a first-round pick, and Dupree himself has made some rather bold predictions about how he will perform at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
If he and his coach's assertions are on target, Kentucky should produce a first-round draft pick next year for the first time since the New York Jets chose Dewayne Robertson No. 4 overall in 2003.