Arizona football notes: Ex-Cat Ippolito seeks Pac-12 South destination

Published: Dec. 5, 2016 at 3:41 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 11:25 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Former Arizona linebacker Cody Ippolito, who wants to play next season as a graduate transfer after his third ACL tear in college, will likely stay in the Pac-12 South.

Ippolito is scheduled this week to talk to Arizona State football coach Todd Graham and to visit Utah, his father, Jerry Ippolito, told TucsonNewsNow.com over the weekend.

Cody Ippolito, who missed the 2013 and 2015 seasons because of ACL injuries, suffered another ACL tear Oct. 8 in the game against Utah. Arizona's starting middle linebacker had 28 tackles, fourth on the team at the time, with four for loss.

Ippolito checked with coach Rich Rodriguez about his status on the team after the season.

"Cody said, 'Coach, I'm going to play football somewhere. If you don't want me to play, let me know so I can make arrangements,'" Jerry said.

Rodriguez decided to move on, freeing up a scholarship (even though the linebacker corps is taking multiple hits via graduation) and not having to be concerned about Ippolito's knees.

"He was very nice about," Jerry said. "Rich said, 'Cody, I have to worry about your health.' Cody said he wanted permission to talk to other teams, and Rich said, 'Sure, whatever you need.'"

The school granted Ippolito his release without restriction. When he posted on Twitter last week that he was transferring, the family quickly heard inquiries from several schools, including USC and two SEC schools, among others, Jerry said.

While it would be rare for someone to transfer to a rival school, such as Arizona State, that is home base for Ippolito, having attended Scottsdale Chaparral High School after the family moved to the Valley from Long Island, New York.

Ippolito could be around family and high school buddies. What's more, he's close to his former defensive coordinator at Chaparral, Conrad Hamilton, who is on the ASU staff as a defensive analyst.

As for Utah, the Utes recruited Ippolito out of high school, so there are previous connections there with head coach Kyle Whittingham. Jerry said the family got a call from the Utah staff about five hours after his son was cleared to talk to other schools.

Jerry said the family has no trepidation about Cody continuing to play football. He has had no cartilage damage in any of his ACL injuries, and Jerry said his son's rehab is progressing nicely with work on the StairMaster and treadmill.

Ippolito, who was part of Rodriguez's first freshman class in 2012, is eligible for a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA because he previously missed two complete seasons due to injury. Noted as more of a run-stuffer, he has 80 career tackles, 10.5 for loss.

"Cody doesn't need football," Jerry said. "But Cody plays for the love of the game."

Ippolito spent his first four years playing for coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, who was let go after the 2015 season.

"After the last surgery, Jeff Casteel called my son to see how he was doing," Jerry said. "I thought that was amazing."

* * *

The big news of the weekend for Arizona football was bad.

Cornerbacks coach and ace recruiter Donte' Williams, who arrived at UA last season, accepted a position at Nebraska. (It's not officially official, but Huskers coach Mike Riley told reporters Sunday night that the transaction was "imminent."

Williams, as a hot up-and-comer, was never going to be at Arizona for too long, but it was hoped he would stay long enough to help shepherd a Top 25 recruiting class in February. Upon his departure, the Wildcats lost one of their top recruits -- cornerback/athlete Greg Johnson from L.A. Hawkins High School. He is rated the 102nd-best prospect in the country in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Even while committed to Arizona, Johnson was looking at Nebraska, so there isn't much mystery where he will end up. How the rest of UA's class holds together ... we'll see.

But losing Williams was absolutely the last thing Arizona needed after a difficult season.

Williams and first-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, along with receivers coach Tony Dews, were part of Rodriguez's renewed push to establish stronger recruiting hooks in the Los Angeles-area. Look for Williams' replacement to also be entrenched in that recruiting turf.

* * *

--Arizona recruit Delshawn Phillips, a linebacker from Garden City Community College in Kansas, had eight tackles, 1.5 for loss, and forced a fumble as the Broncos won the NJCAA national title game against Arizona Western in Yuma over the weekend. Phillips had a team-high 92 tackles, including 13 for loss, this season. He forced three fumbles and intercepted three passes for 11-0 Garden City.

--Arizona, seeking to at least upgrade its kickoff game, if not its place-kicking, offered a scholarship last week to Baylor transfer Spencer Evans. More details here...

--Athletic director Greg Byrne, on his weekly appearance on Sportsradio 1290 last Tuesday, didn't sugarcoat the struggles of the football team through a 3-9 season while acknowledging the happy ending with a win over Arizona State.

"We had the injuries, but that's part of football. We just couldn't quite put it together. I think our confidence got down a little bit and we had a hard time recovering from it. But it all came together (against ASU)," Byrne said.

"I have been a part of a lot of wins over the years. That was one of the more satisfying ones I have been a part of, just because of what a struggle it had been during the season. Just seeing the guys rallying around each other, the coaches, our program and come together like that was a neat shot in the arm for everybody."

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