The Bulls bolstered their secondary through the transfer portal in the offseason, but heading into Week 3 against Florida A&M, they will be down a trio of impactful players in the defensive backfield.
Just days prior to the start of the season, freshman safety Will Jones, who came over from Kansas State, suffered a torn ACL and sophomore safety Christian Williams, who transferred from Miami, sustained a high-ankle sprain in the season opener against NC State.
And now, senior safety Mekhi LaPointe is dealing with a hip injury that will keep him sidelined this week and likely the next couple weeks, according to coach Jeff Scott.
Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said in a press conference Wednesday his healthy players have no choice but to step in and fill the void.
“That’s what we try to tell these guys, you’ve always got to be ready,” Spencer said. “You’re sitting there in spring ball or fall camp, you think you’re a backup, you think ‘I might get some mopup reps.’ No, you better be ready to play that week.
“You tell them as a coach [and] it never really hits home, but boy, these last two weeks it has hit home in my room, and most guys are like ‘Woah, all of a sudden I’ve got to get it done.’”
Many of those players who may see an increased number of snaps are young defensive backs who have yet to see much time on a collegiate football field.
“We had to pull some more guys up and all of a sudden the older guys that are in the room are going ‘Hey kid, you’re not a scout team guy anymore. Whether you thought you were ready or not, your role was to help us win, like now. Not Week 10 or Week 11, now, Week 3,” Spencer said.
Although some of the more youthful talent on the team could see the field more often, graduate student Brock Nichols will likely see a major role in the defense until others recover from their injuries.
Nichols has only made one start in his career with the Bulls, but all of a sudden he may be thrust into a starting position.
“Well [Nichols] has got a bigger role, [with] the couple of injuries we’ve had [over] the past couple weeks, his role is bigger,” Spencer said. “He’s going to play a ton of reps, [he] might even start.”
No matter who steps up, Spencer said he doesn’t want to hear any excuses, he just wants results on game day.
“[I tell the players,] ‘Alright, next man, let’s go, let’s get ready. You’re the guy. You might not have played much, but it doesn’t matter. We’re expecting you to win for us on Saturday,’” Spencer said.
“If he doesn’t do well, you just keep coaching your tail off. What else can you do? What’s the other option? There is none, no other option.”