Football: Golden Bears struggle to understand, overcome unexpected injury epidemic

By the end of a recent game, Cal was down to four healthy players from among the 11 who were projected to start on defense this season.

There is little mystery to the Bears’ 1-5 record under first-year coach Sonny Dykes. It’s a young team, trying to learn new offensive and defensive schemes and playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. On top of that is an injury epidemic nobody could have predicted.

“Never seen anything like it,” said Dykes, in his 19th season as a college coach.

Through six games, the Bears have lost 30 starts by players expected to be on the first unit. With five players out for the season, the number of starts lost to injury will be at least 60.

How extreme is that?

A year ago, according to statistics compiled by Phil Steele Publications, Colorado State led the nation with 53 starts missed to injury. In 2011, Maryland was tops with 59.

The Bears thought they had injury problems last season when they lost 33 starts to injury. But that’s nothing compared with this season’s carnage.

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Jeff Faraudo