Lipford Playing Through Pain

ROEBUCK, S.C. --- In addition to learning a new defensive system and attempting to gel with his new teammates, North Carolina pledge Darius Lipford is dealing with the aftermath of his knee injury heading into Saturday's Shrine Bowl.

"The knee is doing well," Lipford said. "…It's holding up pretty good. A lot of swelling in my calf; it's been irritating me. I can't really run full speed. I just have to use what I can. I'm limited right now until I can get the rest of that swelling out and go full speed."

Lipford, a 6-foot-3, 201-pounder from Lenoir (N.C.) Hibriten, suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during the final game of his high school career. He recently had surgery on the knee.

In addition to being a hindrance, Lipford says he's in "a lot of pain."

"There's pain around the swelling of the tendons," Lipford said. "And I can't really flex my calf, so that's limiting how fast I can run and when I can cut. So [the trainers] are applying pressure by taping my entire shin and that's helping out a lot."

Lipford is playing the weak-side nine-technique (hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end) in North Carolina's ‘50' defense. At Hibriten, he starred at another hybrid position: the spur (hybrid outside linebacker/safety).

"It's almost exactly the same, except here I have a lot more blitzing ability," Lipford said. "It's kind of less responsibility as far as pass, but it's less responsibility as far as run. I just attack the quarterback and try to chase the ball down – use my athletic ability more."

Lipford has spent much of the week working with the starting defensive unit.

"The team is coming together," Lipford said. "Everybody seems more confident, flying around a little bit more, learning the plays a lot better, coming together as a team. It looks like we're going to be pretty good."

Lipford switched his verbal commitment from Duke to UNC just before Thanksgiving. Regardless, he has scheduled an official visit to Clemson for the weekend of Jan. 8.

"It's more of getting to know a school better and having a good time with my family," Lipford said. "We don't really go on my vacations so it will be kind of a family trip. And Dan Brooks is good friends with my dad – they played college football together."

Lipford, who officially visited Duke in early December, says the UNC coaching staff is aware of the official visit to Clemson.

"[The UNC coaches] are ok with it," Lipford said. "As long as I clarify with them that [there's] no doubt in my mind that I want to go to North Carolina [they are fine with me visiting]."

During the following weekend (Jan. 15), Lipford will take his UNC official trip.

Lipford says he doesn't plan to schedule any additional official visits.

"They talked to me while I've been down here – I got in touch with them – making sure my leg is doing ok," Lipford said. "They call me every week and send me letters all the time. We stay in touch really well. I think we're getting a lot closer."

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