By Mark Kaboly
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
It may have not been as simple as: “Hey, Bud, go play linebacker,” but in reality, it might as well have been.
Coach Mark Stoops switched to the 3-4 defense during his second year at Kentucky and with it came pushing what he felt was a sure first-round talent in Bud Dupree into a position that he never played before — outside linebacker.
Stoops was relying on Dupree's athleticism and talent to pull it off more than anything else — including coaching.
And he was right.
Dupree (6-foot-4, 269) was picked with the 22nd overall selection in last week's draft, making him the second edge rusher taken by the Steelers with the first pick over the past three years. This despite Dupree managing only 7 1⁄2 sacks his senior year while being labeled inconsistent by some draft experts.
Dupree might have been inconsistent against top-level competition in the SEC, but Stoops, to a point, blames himself.
“If we just left him in the 4-3 and let him rush the passer and be a 4-3 defensive end, you would've seen his numbers go through the roof with sacks,” Stoops said. “But he did a lot of things with us, and he's very versatile, and we were transitioning. It was very nice for us to have such a versatile athlete playing that position.”
Stoops paused and added: “It also will benefit him, honestly, with a position coach.”
Dupree didn't have the luxury last year.
Starting Friday, when Dupree takes part in the Steelers' three-day rookie minicamp, he will have one of the more prolific pass-rushers in franchise history to teach him in Joey Porter.
Porter, who had 98 sacks in 13 years, including 60 in his eight seasons with the Steelers, was named the Steelers' first outside linebackers coach in February.
“I'm looking forward to working with Bud,” Porter said.
Stoops never got around to hiring an outside linebacker coach last year when the team was transitioning from the 4-3 to the 3-4. So, defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was in charge of both the line and outside linebackers. Stoops since has hired Andy Buh to fill that role.
Stoops believes Porter will make a world of difference.
“That can do nothing but help him as he moves forward and, again, going with such a great organization — going with the Steelers and the great success and the tradition that they've had defensively — it can only help him as he moves forward,” Stoops said. “That's why Bud's just getting better and better with every rep and every game.”
Even though he is quite new to the position, Dupree picked up things quickly, which could lead to a “joker” role with the Steelers.
The “joker” is a defensive player who can play 3-4 end, rush outside linebacker, slide inside to tackle in sub-packages, drop into coverage, and, in some instances, cover slot receivers and play a safety-type role.
More likely, Dupree could play in sub-packages in the middle of the defense, like Jason Worilds did last year.
“He's exceptional with the amount of defense that he can take in,” Stoops said. “Obviously, there will be some adjustment period with transitioning to an NFL team, but he was just exceptional with the way he had great instincts and also great intelligence with picking up schemes and making calls for us defensively and audibling to certain blitzes based on formations.”
Dupree finished his career at Kentucky with 23 1⁄2 and never had more than 7 1⁄2 in a season. According to Pro Football Focus, only 36 pressures came against tackles with positive pass-blocking grades for the season.
“He will be a great pass rusher in the NFL,” Stoops said.
Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/8316028-74/stoops-dupree-coach#ixzz3ZSzmblch
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