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.