Last year at this time, all who tuned in for the 2014 NFL Combine saw arguably the greatest performance ever by a defensive end as Jadeveon Clowney, the 6-foot-5, 266-pounder, set the Twitter world ablaze. It’s safe to say the jaws of many dropped as his first attempt in the 40-yard dash resulted in an unoffical time of 4.47 seconds, simply electric for a man of his size. Although his official time was 4.53 seconds, it was still a preview of his freakish athleticism. This year, as the Pittsburgh Steelers look to replenish the cupboard as far as their outside linebacking corps go, one name that should be of particular interest to them at the 2015 NFL Combine is the University of Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, or as many call him, “Bud.”
The Steelers’ have only Jarvis Jones under contract through 2015, as Jason Worilds, James Harrison and Arthur Moats will all hit free agency on March 10. Couple that with the team mustering a paltry 33 sacks last season, their lowest output since 1989, and you could definitely say some sizzle needs to be added to their pass rush. Built in the mold of former-Steelers great Jason Gildon, the 6-foot-4, 264-pound Dupree is very explosive, and is expected to test well at the combine, which he’s not shy about to say the least.
“I definitely think I will blow the combine up,” he said. “In the 40-yard dash, I probably can run a high 4.4 or a low 4.5. In the vertical jump, I can get a 41 or a 42, and in the broad jump, I know I can get 11 feet. I just have to keep working hard to match those numbers.”
A 4-year starter for the Wildcats, Dupree notched 23 and-a-half career sacks and 38 tackles-for-loss. Also of note, particularly for the Steelers’ brain trust, is that he already has experience playing a 3-4 outside linebacker as well as a defensive end in Kentucky’s hybrid-type defense. This such defense is one that new defensive coordinator Keith Butler may employ more often than in year’s past.
Possessing a very muscular frame, he has tremendous strength at the point of attack, and shows his physical nature when setting the edge. Although still a bit raw, his best football may still be in front of him, especially if given a mentor like new outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, coupled with the tutelage of Butler. He has already drawn comparisons to New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, a “Swiss-Army knife” type of player who can do it all.
“To me, he’s a pure see ’em, get ’em 3-4 rush end,” said one NFC East scout. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. recently pegged Dupree as the 25th best player in the draft.
The only worry is if a team falls in love with his immense physical talents before Pittsburgh goes on the clock. After all, he was named the nation’s fifth-most freakish athlete by College Football 24/7 prior to the 2014 season. Kentucky uses a monitoring system called “Catapult” which uses metrics for the improvement of peak athlete performance. Using this, Dupree was clocked at 20.5 miles-per-hour in a game. Now, it shouldn’t take a NASA scientist to figure that 264-pounds of muscle moving at 20.5 miles-per-hour would not be a pleasant feeling for whoever’s on the receiving end of that hit.
As every year goes, the stock of players can rise and fall with their performances, whether it be at the combine or a school’s pro day. If Dupree posts the eye-opening numbers he’s predicting, there’s a good chance he’s gone before the Steelers are set to pick at 22. However, Kiper still has him ranked as the fourth best pass rusher, after Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, Missouri’s Shane Ray and Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. Some scouts knock Dupree for his instincts being below average, often leading to hesitation, and getting a late start on plays. They also say his pass-rush repertoire needs some refining, as he lacks a go-to move. Still, the sky appears to be the limit and his talent is undeniable. With the proper coaches and mentors in place, and a defensive scheme he is familiar with, if Dupree is available when the team is on the clock, he shouldn’t be surprised when a 412 area code comes buzzing through on his cell phone.