Colorado middle linebacker Douglas Rippy says he is nearly fully recovered from a torn knee ligament that ended his junior season prematurely last fall and he expects to be completely healed well before fall camp begins in August.

Rippy will return to Boulder on Sunday after several weeks at home in Ohio following the spring semester. Once back at CU, Rippy plans to put the finishing touches on whatever team trainers have planned for him and begin workouts with teammates.

Rippy said he ran hills for the first time this week. He said he considers his rehabilitation complete and now he is focused on strengthening his knee. Rippy said he is able to backpedal and move side to side with no pain or discomfort.

"Now it's just getting back the strength and all that other stuff because not running for seven months, you can get out of shape from that," Rippy said.

Coach Jon Embree said the summer work his players do will go a long way toward how fast the Buffs are able to start the season. Embree will have one of the youngest teams in the nation this fall and he says he is relying on a small group of seniors and juniors to set high standards for the freshmen and sophomores this summer.

Earlier this month, Embree said Rippy's recovery and return to the middle of the defense will be vital for the Buffs to improve this year. Rippy suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the seventh game last fall at Washington. Despite playing in just 2 1/2 Pac-12 Conference games, the league's coaches named Rippy an honorable mention selection to the all-conference team in 2011.

"I'm used to it now after being thrown into it last year with the first seven games I played," Rippy said of Embree's high expectations for him. "I handled it pretty well. It's not all about me though, I still need to go out and play with another 10 guys.

"So all the pressure is not on me. It's going to be on all of us who are out there. Coach Embree just wants leadership out of me and Jon Major and the other guys, the seniors that are out there."

Colorado middle linebacker Douglas Rippy says he is nearly fully recovered from a torn knee ligament that ended his junior season prematurely last fall and
Colorado middle linebacker Douglas Rippy says he is nearly fully recovered from a torn knee ligament that ended his junior season prematurely last fall and he expects to be completely healed well before fall camp begins in August. ( PAUL AIKEN )

There are relatively low expectations for the Buffs heading into the 2012 season because of the youth of the team and program's struggles in recent years. Colorado has not produced a winning season since 2005 and has been to just one bowl game in the past six seasons.

The Buffs will have six starters back from a defense that finished last fall ranked 89th against the run, 97th against the pass, 102 in total defense and 109th in scoring defense allowing a whopping 36.5 points per game.

Rippy says the Buffs can turn those numbers around this fall. He said one reason he believes that is he and his teammates have a year in the system under their belts and they understand what coaches want. He said that will allow him and the other veterans to play faster in September than they were able to last year.

"What we're trying to do is get everybody on the same boat and go from there," Rippy said. "I really don't care what people expect from us because, at the same time, we know what to expect from us. We have coaches who have high expectations from us. So we don't really care what outsiders think. I have high expectations for myself and my team, too. So I don't really care what other people say about us or where they're projecting us to go because the true fans of Colorado are going to be behind us through the good and the bad."