D'Imperio Readies for UNC

A week before the 2007 season began, Ryan D'Imperio's leg, which he injured during the spring, gave out on him and he was sidelined for the first two games. He returned and saw game action, but lost his starting position to Damaso Munoz, who finished third on the team with 67 tackles.

Fast-forwarding to this year, D'Imperio came back to camp "bigger, stronger, faster and better" according to Head Coach Greg Schiano.

After battling for the starting middle linebacker position against Munoz, he won the job and was given the chance to make his second career start against Fresno State.

"It felt great to be out there," D'Imperio said. "It felt great to be running around on the field, hitting another team. It's the best feeling to be one with your team and going out to hit someone else."

Everything Schiano said about D'Imperio's appearance looked to be true in the opener. He finished tied for second on the team in tackles with eight. Known as a live wire on the field, he said the key to playing in front of a packed stadium is to not even notice them. His focus is only on what his assignments are on the field.

"You have to go out there and focus on your job and what you're suppose to do," the former two-way player at Washington Township High School said. "You just have to work with the team. If everyone focuses on their job and what they're supposed to do, everything will go right."

Through the first two quarters against the Bulldogs, the Rutgers defense looked like it was going to pitch a shutout. Fresno State was only able to gain 102 yards on 29 plays. D'Imperio credits the defense for simply flying to the ball, making it hard for quarterback Tom Brandstater to get his offense in a rhythm.

"We just came out there fired up, ready to go," he said. "Everything was going our way where everyone was hitting and everyone was doing what coach told them to do from day one. When you do everything his way, you can see everything works."

The second half told a completely different tale. Fresno State was able to move the ball with ease and scored 24 points in the final two quarters. The breakdowns made could be fixed, D'Imperio said, and the team will learn from them so they don't happen again.

"In the second half, there were a few mistakes," he said. "They were making their plays and we went over that. We looked over our mistakes and realized what we did wrong and how to fix it. The only way to go about life is to learn from your mistakes so they don't happen again."

Even with a game under the belt, to the junior linebacker, a football player doesn't get into a groove as the season goes on. Each game poses a different challenge. In D'Imperio's words, there are 12 first games of the season, and if you're lucky, you get to play 13.

"You're never 100 percent, even at the end of the season," he said. "You have to focus on your part and learn from your mistakes. Some games it will go perfect, other games it won't. Both sides are on scholarship, so it's hard to be perfect."

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