Doug Rippy spent most of the 2009 season in pain with a small tear in his meniscus in his left knee and a sprained medial collateral ligament. He underwent surgery early in the offseason and says he is feeling as good as he has in a long time through the first seven practices of spring ball.
Rippy has spent those practices mostly as an inside linebacker. He is behind senior Michael Sipili at the MIKE position after spending his first two years in Boulder practicing at outside linebacker. He is also competing with redshirt freshman Derrick Webb for playing time in the middle.
Rippy, who will be a third-year sophomore in the fall, said he knows he is behind Sipili in terms of his overall understanding of the defense and his responsibilities at middle linebacker, but he is not going to concede the job to his teammate just because he is a senior.
"If you come out one day with that mindset that he's a senior and he's going to play, then you're not going to get very far," Rippy said. "You have to come out and compete every day and make sure you're doing what the coaches ask you to, and make sure that you're studying more than he is. But at the same time, we're a team and we're going to do what we have to do to help each other.
"You have to have an unmatched work ethic if you want to beat somebody out, especially a senior."
Rippy played middle linebacker for one year in high school. He also played the WILL position for one season as a prep. He said he is familiar with seeing the offense from the middle of the field instead of the edge and believes he can excel at the position.
"The hardest part about it is just getting used to it again," Rippy said. "You have alignments, you have to be the vocal leader of the defense. The Mike linebacker is basically the quarterback of the defense. You have to get everyone lined up. You have to know what formation it is. ...It's very challenging. It's basically learning the offensive formations and how to get lined up to it."
Rippy hasn't been coached by longtime CU linebackers coach Brian Cabral until now because Cabral works with the inside linebackers while defensive coordinator Ron Collins, former assistant coach Bob Foster and former graduate assistant Andy Avalos have coached the outside linebackers during Rippy's time in the program.
Rippy said he is embracing Cabral's suggestion that his linebackers become students of the game.
"It doesn't matter who gets the most time," he said. "We just want to compete and make each other better."