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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden has a broken foot and will miss the entire season.
Volunteers coach Butch Jones announced Gaulden's injury on Saturday, saying the sophomore got "tripped up" during a punt return drill. Gaulden joins starting guard Marcus Jackson and reserve guard Austin Sanders as Vols likely lost for the season because of training-camp injuries.
Gaulden, who is from Spring Hill, Tennessee, played 11 games as a reserve last season and made five of his seven total tackles on special teams. He had been working as the Vols' first-team nickelback for most of training camp.
"Rashaan meant so much for us not just from a DB standpoint but from special teams as well," Jones said. "Last year as a true freshman, that's where he made his impact. Not only on defense do we have to replace him, but we have to replace the productivity on special teams as well."
Junior cornerback Cam Sutton is switching his uniform number from No. 23 to Gaulden's No. 7 to honor his injured teammate. Sophomore guard Jashon Robertson has taken a similar step by changing his number from No. 73 to Jackson's No. 75.
Sutton and Robertson were both wearing their new jersey numbers at Saturday's practice.
"Right when he found out the extent of the injury, (Sutton) called me," Jones said. "It was probably about 11:30, 12 o'clock at night and (he) said, 'Hey, I want to represent Rashaan.' "
Jones said finding a replacement for Gaulden at the nickel spot would be an "ongoing process."
Sutton, Tennessee's top returning cornerback, has worked out at nickelback at times during the offseason and could fill that role in Gaulden's absence. Jones noted that junior Malik Foreman, freshman Micah Abernathy and sophomore Emmanuel Moseley also have gotten some work at that spot.
Jones also said sophomore cornerback Justin Martin is expected to return Monday from a knee sprain, which could lead to more options in the secondary. Jones said receiver Marquez North and defensive end LaTroy Lewis also are expected back Monday.
Tennessee spends a substantial portion of every game in a nickel defense because of the prevalence of spread offenses in college football.
"The nickel position is as important as any position now that there is when you talk defensive football," Jones said.
This story has been corrected to show that Jashon Robertson's original jersey number was No. 73, not No. 78.
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