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Pass rushing guru predicts Steelers Bud Dupree will win Defensive Player of the Year in 2017

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Could the third year outside linebacker from Kentucky have a breakout year in 2017?

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pittsburgh Steelers snagged Bud Dupree in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, fans were ecstatic, and rightfully so. Dupree had ignited the NFL Scouting Combine just a few months prior, and was projected to be a Top 10 pick. But when he fell to the Steelers, most were wondering why. Players don’t usually drop that far for no reason.

Well, the reason is just how raw and unrefined he was coming out of the University of Kentucky. Dupree didn’t know how to rush the passer, he just used his natural ability to beat the man in front of him.

Just think about that for a moment. Dupree turned himself into a first round NFL draft pick solely on his God-given natural ability.

So, what could become of Dupree with a little coaching? How about the Defensive Player of the Year.

That is exactly what pass rushing guru Chuck Smith, who has been closely working with Dupree this offseason, thinks of one of his many prized pupils. Smith has worked with the likes of Von Miller, Aaron Donald and Dee Ford. Notice a trend in all those players? They can all get after the passer.

But back to Dupree.

During the interview for the awesome article by CBSSports, Dupree was preparing for a session with Smith. When the author, Pete Prisco, motioned to Dupree in regards to what Smith thought of him, his answer spoke volumes.

As Dupree loosened up, Smith looked over at him and said, “He’s going to be the Defensive Player of the Year next season.”

“The kid is a freak,” Smith said.

Talk about lofty expectations, but for a man who has been working with Dupree, he sees the potential he has on almost a daily basis. When you look at Dupree’s 2016 season, which was hampered by a sports hernia in his groin which needed surgery, landing him on the injured reserve list, when he returned to the field he was dominant. He looked like a completely different player than his rookie season.

When Dupree was told of Smith’s comments, his response oozed of confidence.

“I believe that also.”

“In college, I didn’t have any moves. I didn’t know what I was doing. I got by on my athletic ability. That doesn’t work in the NFL. You need to have more.”

“I am still learning, and this is the place to be to do that,” Dupree said.

The fact Dupree could become the polished, athletic and versatile outside linebacker the Steelers hoped they had picked in 2015 is extremely promising for the future of the defense. However, Dupree will still have to put a lot on tape for that to take place.

2017 is going to be a crucial year for Dupree. After a quick start to his rookie year, the groin injury in 2016 put a damper on what could have been a coming out party for the pass rusher. Now, with a chance to prove his pass rushing coach correct, Dupree looks to wreak havoc on the NFL trying to be the first Steelers pass rusher to record double-digit sacks since James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley both did it in 2010.