In fact, he had already done it twice, first moving to offensive line, then later to tight end. But this time, Tripp noticed that Georgia would have just three healthy defensive ends for spring drills and saw a chance to return to the position he had always wanted to play.
So Tripp walked into head coach Mark Richt’s office and made an offer: If the coaches were interested, he would like to move back to defensive end. Richt’s response was a broad smile. The two men walked into the staff meeting room, and Richt told Tripp to take a look at the depth chart. There, on the chalk board under defensive ends, were written two names: Demarcus Dobbs and Kiante Tripp.
“They were already thinking about the same thing I was thinking,” Tripp said.
And as far as he’s concerned, this should be the last move he has to make. Tripp started the first three games of 2008 at left tackle, was hurt for a while and moved to a back-up role, slid over to tight end midway through the year, then moved back to the offensive line. But now, he’s found a home – at the same position he was recruited for.
“This definitely where I want to finish at,” Tripp said. “In high school, this is what I loved to do, get after the quarterback. Now I’m here, back at my home position, and that’s my intent, to do the same thing.”
It has been a long road back to where he started, but it was a journey Tripp said he was glad to make.
“It was a learning process for me, humbling,” Tripp said. “I was down a little bit, but after that, I was like I’ll play the practice player role, the team role, and then start over in the spring. So now I’m here, trying to work hard and do the best I can at D end.”
Tripp put on weight for his move to the offensive line last season, and he said he’d like to drop about 10 or 15 pounds to get down to about 280 before the season, although defensive ends coach Jon Fabris said he could be effective at his current weight.
Other than his size, however, Tripp has the added advantage of an insider’s knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the players he’ll now be going up against.
“It’s going to help me a lot when I get my plays in at D end, and I hear the other plays on the other side of the ball, I already know what’s going to happen,” Tripp said. “As far as working with offensive tackle, I know the technique and I know what’s going to give them problems.”
With that in mind, tackle Trinton Sturdivant had a warning for his former teammate on the offensive line after Tripp informed the team of the switch.
“You better be ready,” Sturdivant told Tripp.
It was a friendly warning for Tripp, but one he returned with an honest response.
“You better get ready, too, because I’m coming,” Tripp said. “I’m coming with a chip on my shoulder. It’s time for me to get on that field and start showing the world what Kiante Tripp is about.”