A 6-foot-2, 240-pound backer played in 27 career games for Arizona, totaling 80 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries. He’s known as a run-stopper, and figures to bring physicality to a position where Utah lacked it last season.
But Ippolito, 23, also brings extensive injury concerns: He’s suffered three ACL tears in his career, including two that kept him out for full seasons. His injury in 2013 left the door open for Scooby Wright, one of his best friends, to become a star. He’s hunting for a sixth year of eligibility — Jerry Ippolito said his son has received assurances from the NCAA that it shouldn’t be a problem.
Oddly, the fact that Utah has two returning starters, Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga, was a plus for Utah when Ippolito was deciding where to go between such schools as USC, Nevada and Baylor. He felt pushed on the field too much by Arizona, Jerry Ippolito said, and coming off yet another ACL injury, he’d like a role in which he can ease his way onto the field if need be.
"Cody can just be supporting senior," he said. "If he goes and plays right away, it might be tough for him coming off his rehab. But the season is a long drain, and Cody understands that. He can be a back-up linebacker or a special teams guy, and then maybe when you get to October or November, maybe Cody has a chance to go in and play."
Jerry Ippolito said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was looking to move on after the linebacker’s injury history, but gave him the freedom to transfer without restriction (Ippolito already has a degree).
Ippolito actually has a long history with Utah: He committed there after an official visit in 2011, but changed his mind when his high school coach at Chapparal (Ariz.) became a coach at Arizona under RichRod. But a few things stuck with him: He liked Kyle Whittingham and Morgan Scalley, and he liked Salt Lake City (he was a snowboarder before his rash of injuries).
Ippolito’s last game was played at Rice-Eccles Stadium. He was injured during Utah’s 36-23 win over the Wildcats (Whittingham’s first over Arizona since RichRod arrived) and immediately had surgery.
Ippolito is not on scholarship for the spring semester. Jerry Ippolito said any future scholarship is "up in the air.
"If they have one, it’s OK, but if they don’t, it’s OK — it’s just for one year," he said. "They don’t know right now. Any school he wanted to go, that was going to be up in the air."
Jerry Ippolito said he has personal reservations about his son playing another year of football, but doctors have cleared him and he’s already passed Utah’s physical. Cody is expected to participate in spring ball, but not be cleared for contact until the fall.
At the moment, he’s doing most of his training on a treadmill. But Jerry Ippolito said his son is ready to hit the field next fall — starting or not, scholarship or not.
"Utah gave him a shot, and he liked what he heard," he said. "He’s excited to get on the other side of the injury. He just wants to help Utah."