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Moving Forward

A lot has changed on Rick Minter’s clipboard since the last time he used it in Commonwealth Stadium.

That was Nov. 26, 2011, and the defense was paramount in winning the Cats‘ first game over Tennessee since 1984. Things looked a lot different: Danny Trevathan was there. So was Winston Guy. So were Ronnie Sneed and Ridge Wilson and Randall Burden and Luke McDermott and Anthony Mosley.

At Saturday’s Blue-White spring game, the replacements for six starting spots got their first feel for first-string action.

Most impressive Saturday was Avery Williamson, a junior-to-be middle linebacker. Williamson had eight tackles, including two tackles for loss and one sack. In his first two years at Kentucky, Williamson totaled 59 tackles (49 of which came in 2011) on the depth chart behind the solid Sneed. Head coach Joker Phillips has compared Williamson’s career trajectory to Trevathan’s: minor contributor as an underclassman and a major weapon when the depth chart opens and an opportunity arises.

“(I’m) pleased with the way he played,” Phillips said of Williamson. “Avery was all over the place. For the amount of time he played last year, he had a lot of tackles. He had a lot of tackles for us.”

The results of Saturday’s game are difficult to interpret because of how the game’s rules were set up. The first-string defense ran all game against the second- and third-stringers on offense, and the backups on defense were pitted against the offense’s starters.

The starters-to-be on defense held the offensive backups to 189 yards, 54 of which came on one play, a Jacob Russell scramble from behind center that ended up a touchdown. Take out that one broken play, and the stats read impressively: 39 yards rushing allowed on 27 carries, 96 yards passing allowed on 24 attempts and five completions, seven sacks.

Naturally, the backups on defense had less success stopping the starters. Maxwell Smith went for 353 yards on 45 attempts, and Raymond Sanders ran for two touchdowns in the red zone. The first-stringers finished with 414 total yards.

In all, Minter couldn’t split his emotions between what one unit did—stop the ball from moving and points from scoring—and what one unit didn’t.

“There’s nothing I like about giving up points,” Minter said. “We’ll find good. We’ll watch film and find some plays and individuals that played well here and there, but I’m a bottom-line guy. When you give up that many points, you’re not that good.”

Still, Phillips was positive considering the team’s youth and how well the first-stringers performed. Another bright spot he pointed out was Bud Dupree, the hybrid linebacker-defensive end that has been expected to replace Ridge Wilson since he was dismissed from the team in February after an arrest on felony drug charges.

Dupree, a rising sophomore, only had one tackle Saturday, but both Phillips and Minter were pleased with the spring he had.

If all goes to plan, Dupree’s name will be at the top of Minter’s clipboard for years to come.

“We keep hearing buzz about Bud Dupree, and you saw it,” Phillips said. “The guy’s so fast off the edge, he’s what we’ve got to block week in and week out. He’s a real guy. He’s a real, SEC outside linebacker-rush backer.”

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