The Charlotte 49ers’ already banged-up linebacker corps got another dose of bad news this week: senior Caleb Clayton-Molby is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Clayton-Molby was hurt in the second half of last week’s 40-28 victory against N.C. Central. Junior Nick Cook, who began the season as a starter at inside linebacker with Clayton-Molby, sprained his ankle against Campbell two weeks ago and is also out indefinitely.
“We had two ‘old’ guys there,” said coach Brad Lambert, whose 49ers (3-0) play at Elon (0-2) on Saturday. “But I feel really good about (replacements) Karrington (King) and Dustin (Crouser).”
King, a redshirt freshman from Charlotte Catholic, is a walk-on who earned a scholarship this year. Crouser, who has started the past two games in Cook’s absence, led the 49ers with nine tackles against N.C. Central.
“It’s their fourth game (as college players),” Lambert said. “But that’s the way we were with all of our guys every week last year.”
Lambert said sophomore Justin Bridges-Thompson, who had extensive playing time in 2013 as a true freshman, might not be able to redshirt this season because of the injuries to Clayton-Molby and Cook. The plan was for Bridges-Thompson to sit out this season so he would have three years of eligibility remaining when the 49ers move into Conference USA in 2015.
• The 49ers’ victory against N.C. Central, in which they led 40-0 after three quarters, might have been a good thing for the young program.
“We sat back and enjoyed it a little bit,” receiver Trent Bostick said. “We have to understand that the game isn’t over until the clock hits zero. I’m glad we experienced it now instead of down the road, in a game where we can’t fix it.”
• Lambert said the 49ers are hoping to schedule a home-and-home series with East Carolina, as well as with other teams in the American Athletic Conference.
• Quarterback Matt Johnson rushed for a 49ers single-game record 150 yards against N.C. Central. Most of his 14 carries came from plays where had to read the defensive formation before deciding whether to keep the ball or distribute it. Lambert said none of Johnson’s runs was the result of poor decisions where he could have passed to a teammate or thrown the ball away.
“He was really tuned and played well,” Lambert said. “We had some designed runs for him, too. But he will always carry some and get us some tough yards if he has to.”