This season could not have gone any better for freshman defensive end Tyler Dippel.
"I feel I have really grown as a player, especially at the new position," Dippel said. "It's been kind of a struggle and had some rough spots, but coming through the adversity has really taught me to be resilient. Going up against one of the best offensive lines in the nation every single day has really benefited me. I feel like I am a lot better."
Other than hurting his knee in the gold medal game, the experience Dippel got from playing with the USA Football's Junior National Team is immeasurable. His best game was when he registered two sacks in a 78-0 drubbing of France, and got to experience competitive football while playing against to highly-recruited players like David Wilson (Virginia Tech), Chris Payne (South Carolina) and Storm Klein (Ohio State).
"I met so many people that I'll know for the rest of my life," Dippel said. "So many guys that I got to know and talk football with. It was a really good experience and I wouldn't change it if I could. I met a lot of good coaches down there and learned some good things."
Once the team MVP after making 72 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble as a senior linebacker, the things Dippel learned with the junior team has helped him transition to the defensive line, and learn the physicality needed to make an impact on the college level.
In a drill at the beginning of practice, Dippel was pulled down from behind and landed on his hand wrong, causing a minor break. Dippel didn't miss a beat though, getting his hand wrapped in a club and getting him right back on to the practice field.
"Practices are very intense," Dippel said. "I remember when I first came here, I was kind of shell shocked because everything was happening so fast and there was yelling and running around. You pick up on it pretty quick."
The biggest change from linebacker to defensive end is the physicality with the hands and rushing off the ball with a different set of footwork.
"Linebacker is kind of a free-range position, and you have to be disciplined at defensive end," Dippel said. "Scout team builds your confidence incredibly. Going against guys that you idolize and you look up to, and then you go against them and you're like, ‘My gosh, how can I go against this guy?' It slowly starts to give you experience and maybe you get some wins against them. It really builds confidence."
Even despite his injuries, Dippel has been able to increase his weight upwards of 250 pounds, and tap All-Big Ten senior O'Brien Schofield on the shoulder whenever he has a question.
"He's been very helpful throughout the season, him and coach have been great giving me tips," Dippel said.
"At the defensive line position, you've got to get a little bit better each day and he's coming," Defensive Line Coach Charlie Partridge said. "I am always going to fight for eight guys that can roll through there, and we have to keep these young guys developing and hope a guy that can help us."
With at least one vacancy at the defensive end position open for next season, Dippel has no qualms about being one of the people for the job.
"I just want to move up, show the coaches that I have a motor and that I want to work," he said. "My main thing is to play."