Football: Bears to find out how much linebacker depth they really have after Nathan Broussard injury

Attrition is beginning to test the Cal football team again, at least at linebacker.

Junior Nathan Broussard, felled by an ACL tear in his left knee this week, has moved to the shelf alongside fellow linebackers Maximo Espitia (season-long suspension) and Jason Gibson (medical retirement). All three are done for the season.

“We’ve got some options,” coach Sonny Dykes said Wednesday after announcing the news about Broussard.

Maybe, but not quite as many as they once had.

A year after being ravaged roster-wide by health issues, the Bears will find out if the improved depth they believe they have at linebacker will hold up.

Broussard was running with the starting unit at middle linebacker and Espitia came out of spring ball listed as No. 1 at one of the outside spots. The coaching staff hoped Gibson might provide depth.

Now, barely two weeks before their Aug. 30 opener at Northwestern, the Bears are shuffling bodies.

Linebackers coach Garret Chachere enlisted the cliché, “Next man up,” then noted the difference from a year ago. “There is a next man to go up now. We have more depth, more guys who are ready to play,” he said.

The Bears are hoping sophomore Hardy Nickerson is one of those players. Nickerson played all last season with a left foot injury then underwent surgery Nov. 15 for a separate fracture to his mid-foot. He’s been folded into the action gradually these first two weeks, but said his foot is fully healed.

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Football: Tough day for Bears, who lose Nathan Broussard, Jeffrey Coprich, Quentin Tartabull to serious injury

Cal’s football team, which had avoided serious injury through the first week of fall workouts, announced the loss of three players after Wednesday’s closed practice, including a season-ending knee injury to projected starting middle linebacker Nathan Broussard.

Coach Sonny Dykes said Broussard was diagnosed with a torn ACL to his left knee after twice “tweaking” it in recent days. Broussard, a junior, suffered the same injury to the same knee during August workouts last year and missed the entire season.

Freshman safety Quentin Tartabull, expected to be a contributor this season, tore his left ACL during Wednesday morning’s practice.

Sophomore reserve running back Jeffrey Coprich is out 4 to 8 weeks after breaking his left foot while making a cut during practice Tuesday and will have surgery Thursday.

“I hate it for those kids, especially for Nate, coming off that surgery (last year),” said Dykes, who characterized all three as non-contact injuries.

Dykes said candidates to play the middle linebacker spot include freshman Devante Downs, Hardy Nickerson, Edward Tandy and Michael Barton.


Football: Bears schedule North Carolina, TCU

Cal has scheduled home-and-home nonconference football series against North Carolina and Texas Christian, two opponents the Bears have never faced, the school announced Wednesday.

Cal will face North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sept. 2, 2017, then host the Tar Heels on Sept. 1, 2018.

The series vs. TCU begins with a game at Berkeley on Sept. 5, 2020, before Cal treks to Fort Worth, Texas, for a rematch on Sept. 11, 2021.


Football: Offense gets the best of things

The offense struck back Tuesday at practice.

Coach Sonny Dykes saw plenty he liked, although he said there remains a good deal of room for improvement.

“The last two days I thought the defense really got after the offense. Today the offense made some big plays,” he said. “Turned the ball over twice, but they made some big plays.

“It has a tendency to happen when you’ve got to tackle. That’s why we’re trying to get a lot of live tackling. We’ve got to improve that.”

Still, Dykes not a couple dropped passes on potential touchdowns and a couple missed easy throws.

“But it was good to see some big plays and some guys do some things with the football after they caught it,” he said. “It was progress.”

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Football: Bears hope off-season `Swagger Games’ strength competition adds muscle to their bid to improve

They were called “The Swagger Games,” hardly a term you’d associate with Cal football after last fall’s 1-11 season.

But Damon Harrington knew he had to get creative. The team’s strength and conditioning coach faced a mountain of discouraging data from 2013. The Bears were winless against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, they had 148 designed running plays that produced 2 yards or less, and the defense allowed an average of nearly 28 points in the first half.

So Harrington devised “The Swagger Games,” an offseason competition designed to generate leadership, increase the strength of the team and improve performance inside the weight room, and most importantly, on the field. Harrington, 36, who came with coach Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech after the 2012 season, recognized the urgency of the moment: Get stronger or get trampled again.

“The development from that point to the (start of) the season can make or break us,” he said.

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Swimming: Cal lands 5 on Pan Pacific team

Cal earned five spots on the U.S. team that will compete at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia later this month.

The U.S. nationals ended Sunday, with are junior Rachel Bootsma, sophomore Missy Franklin, former Cal standout Caitlin Leverenz, junior Elizabeth Pelton and incoming freshman Cierra Runge chosen to the U.S. squad. Cal coach Teri McKeever will serve as the head coach of the women’s team for the trip.

Franklin was named the women’s high-point award winner. She captured three events – the 100- and 200-meter backstroke and the 100-meter freestyle and was runner-up in the 200 free.


Football: Defensive end commits to Cal

Cal got an oral commitment from Westlake Village-Oaks Christian High defensive end Trevor Howard, who made the announcement via twitter on Sunday.

“I have just committed to the University of California Berkeley! Thank you for believing in me!” he said in his twitter post.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder is rated as a three-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com.

Howard is the 10th player from the class of 2015 to commit to Cal.


Football: Linebacker Jason Gibson retires

Cal reserve linebacker Jason Gibson retires from football for medical reasons – for web and Monday local digest

Cal junior linebacker Jason Gibson, plagued by injuries throughout his college career, retired from football for medical reasons, coach Sonny Dykes announced after Sunday’s practice.

Gibson had not practiced this fall after undergoing surgery on his right foot after last season. He had surgery on the same foot prior to the 2012 season.

“He’s worked incredibly hard to come back and it’s just been really painful,” Dykes said. “He’s a good kid and I hate it for him. I’m proud of him for working hard and trying to rehab it.”

Gibson came to Cal from Gardena as a linebacker, then was moved to safety before last season, when he played in the only six games of his college career. He was returned to outside linebacker in the spring.

Dykes said he expects Gibson to be granted a medical hardship and kept on scholarship. He is on schedule to graduate next spring.