Without question the defensive line should be one of Kentucky's strengths in the upcoming season. Seniors Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble return at defensive tackle. The ends will be manned by junior Bud Dupree and junior college transfer Za'Darius Smith. WIth a new 4-3 alignment, the Cats look to be more aggressive.
Last season was a confidence crusher as Kentucky finished 2-10. Many of the veterans were close to Joker Phillips, they faced a coaching change and a new way of doing things with Mark Stoops. "There's no issues anywhere," said Rumph. "The seniors, we just sat down and said "o.k." Do we just sit and sulk about what happened or do we just buy in. We just bought in and it's working."
Cobble believes Stoops and his staff have helped build confidence. Getting on players for mistakes, but also lending praise. "He congratulates you when you do good, he lets you know that. So that helps you along the way to build your confidence up."
Added to the front four is Smith, 6-6, 254 pounds, one of the top junior college players in the country. He was slowed by a high ankle sprain in the preseason, he says it's fine now and he's looking forward to his first D-1 game. "It's going to feel great." Smith said after Tuesday's practice. "Be out there with Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble, Bud (Dupree). That's a great feeling man, knowing I can play beside those guys."
Smith played under UK's defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh in junior college, so he's familiar with the defense and what the coaches expect. He says his teammates aren't nervous but confident. "It's all confidence, and myself man, I'm just trying to play out the role that I'm suppose to play and be the D-lineman that I'm suppose to be."