Last season: 2-10 (0-8)
All-time record: 582-592-44
SEC titles: 2
Opener: UT-Martin on Aug. 30
COMING SATURDAY: LSU
Earlier this month, Kentucky senior defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree was labeled by Fox Sports as one of the top five freak athletes in college football.
Dupree racked up 61 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss on a Wildcats team that suffered through a second consecutive 2-10 season that included an 0-8 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Fox Sports ranking pointed out his defensive stats from a year ago and added the fact the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder from Irwinton, Ga., has a vertical jump of 40.5 inches and can broad jump 11 feet.
"I consider myself God-blessed with a lot of athletic ability to be able to do things a lot of others can't do," Dupree said at SEC media days. "I would have liked to have been No. 1 on that list. Sometimes when I look at things that I did, like the vertical and the broad jump and the 40, I haven't really trained exactly for that event.
"Once I put the time and effort into training, I think my numbers will be even better just because of raw talent."
Topping Fox's list of college football freaks, incidentally, was Auburn junior receiver Sammie Coates.
Dupree has recorded at least three tackles in all 26 games he has started in his 35-game career. His career totals consist of 173 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks, and he teams with fellow senior Za'Darius Smith to comprise the league's most productive and underappreciated defensive end tandem.
"They're what you want your defensive ends to look like in the SEC," second-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "Bud is extremely versatile. He's very good with his hand in the dirt playing defensive end, but you can move him around a little bit in the 3-4 and play some linebacker.
"Za'Darius is just a big, strong, tough guy who is getting better each and every day. Both of them had a chance to go to the NFL last year, and both chose to come back after looking at it. We're very thankful we have those guys."
If only the rest of Kentucky's roster could be so stout.
The Wildcats return eight defensive starters and seven on offense, with the big question again at quarterback. Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith were the top two for most of last season, but Whitlow transferred to Eastern Illinois while Smith is having to play catch-up after shoulder surgery.
Redshirt sophomore Patrick Towles, redshirt freshman Reese Phillips of Signal Mountain and early enrollee Drew Barker are now the three candidates to be the starter when the Wildcats open Aug. 30 against Tennessee-Martin.
"I want to see that ironed out as soon as possible," Dupree said. "We haven't named a starting quarterback going into the season yet. I think it would play a big role in how our season turns out if the quarterback is named before we play. One quarterback is going to have to step up and take that role and make sure his teammates follow him."
Whoever emerges at quarterback should have some help on the perimeter from senior receiver Javess Blue, who had 43 receptions for 586 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.
Though there have been plenty of droughts in its football history, Kentucky had never gone 0-16 in SEC play over a two-year stretch until now. The last four league defeats were by an average score of 39-14.
Stoops helped assemble Rivals.com's No. 17 recruiting class in February, the highest ranking ever for the autumn Wildcats, but that was good for just ninth in the football-hungry SEC. A bowl game, something the Wildcats haven't experienced since 2010, would be the logical next step, but Stoops doesn't want 6-6 being the goal.
"Six games is obviously important to us, but I won't put that mark on it because I don't want to give up the other six," Stoops said. "We're going out to compete and to win each and every game. We're not dwelling on anything that's gone on in the past, and anything certainly before I arrived at Kentucky we really don't talk about much."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...