Just last week, I was asking John Kenny, a kid from Indiana, about fellow Arizona Wildcats linebacker Cody Ippolito, a kid from Long Island.
“You can hear it,” Kenny said.
“He’s loud, he has his accent and he is always saying something. You know when Cody is taking, for sure.”
In yet more heartbreaking injury news for Arizona, coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that Ippolito suffered a torn ACL against Utah on Saturday. That’s Ippolito’s third ACL tear at Arizona, a series of setbacks that might crush the dreams of most players, especially one that is already in his fifth year on campus.
Rehab again? Come back for more school?
Let’s just say that Ippolito, true to his roots, vows to not go quietly. He tweeted this after Rodriguez’s afternoon press conference:
I'll be back for a 6th year bigger faster and stronger #beardown Guaranteed.
Ippolito has been Arizona’s starting middle linebacker this season, playing probably the best ball of his career. He has 28 tackles, including four for loss and 1.5 sacks. He also recovered two fumbles.
“It’s probably something that is extremely frustrating to him,” Rodriguez said of the third ACL tear. “He was playing really well.”
Ippolito, whose family moved from New York to the Phoenix area around when he was starting high school, missed the 2013 and 2015 seasons with injuries, which qualifies him for a “sixth” season of eligibility from the NCAA. The school can petition for that after the season.
Normally, student-athletes have five years in which to play four, although the clock can be extended if they miss all or most of two seasons due to injury.
His good buddy, former Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, now on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad, joked on social media with Ippolito.
Gonna leave Arizona when ur 28 huh? Ha https://t.co/61A9zAHAPG
Given the timing of the injury, it’s reasonable to think Ippolito would be ready for the start of next season if everything progressed fine during rehab. But it’s a little too early to throw a “Welcome Back” party.
“The doctors and everybody have to come to a decision, including me,” Rodriguez said. “At some point as a coach, you say, ‘Listen, you have to think about your long-term health and all that. But Cody is a guy who wants to play. He’s a guy who loves football and wants to play.”
Arizona has a couple of options to replace Ippolito.
It could move Cal graduate transfer Michael Barton, who has been seeing increasing time as the weakside linebacker, to the middle. Barton played almost all of the UCLA game on the weakside and started over Paul Magloire at Utah.
If Barton is in the middle, Magloire goes back to a starter, with Jake Matthews backing up both spots. Or Matthews could start in the middle, and the coaches could use a three-man time-share at the two spots.
Barton has a team-high 38 tackles, including 4.5 for loss.
“Michael has been playing pretty good football for us,” Rodriguez said.
Matthews, who has 12 tackles, did not play last week because of “vertigo or something,” Rodriguez said.
Four of Arizona’s top six linebackers are seniors, so getting a healthy Ippolito back in 2017 could be a needed boost.
“He’s a good guy,” Kenny said. “And a good leader, too.”