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Nevada football stars Aaron Frost, JoJuan Claiborne suffer 'extensive' injuries

JoJuan{ }Claiborne is rehabbing a serious injury that could sideline him for the season. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)
JoJuan Claiborne is rehabbing a serious injury that could sideline him for the season. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)
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The Nevada football team returned only six starters from last season. Two of them have already suffered major injuries.

Offensive lineman Aaron Frost, who was entering his fourth year as a starter, and safety JoJuan Claiborne, who had a breakout 2021 season, have both substantial severe injuries.

"They have some pretty extensive injuries to rehab," Nevada football coach Ken Wilson told NSN after Thursday's practice. "I don't know when we'll get those guys back. We're still evaluating that, but those injuries are going to be a while."

Wilson declined to specify what part of the body the injuries were to. Frost's injury happened Monday at practice; Claiborne hasn't been available to practice this fall after suffering an injury during summer workouts.

"It was a freak by-himself injury, so we'll rehab it and hopefully have him back," Wilson said of Claiborne. "But there's going to be significant time on those."

Wilson has not ruled both of those players out for the season, saying "There's a chance (they return). We'll see how that goes."

Frost was Nevada's lone preseason All-Mountain West pick after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2020 and 2021. A right tackle, he was the only returning starter on Nevada's offensive line and has started 36 games, including 34 straight. He was named to the Outland Trophy preseason watch list, given to the nation's top offensive lineman. A potential NFL draft pick after the season, Frost had been described as the "heart and soul" of Nevada's offense.

Instead of entering the transfer portal this offseason like many of his Nevada teammate following a coaching change, Frost stayed loyal to the Wolf Pack and returned for a second senior season.

"When I came back, everybody just embraced me and everybody loved me," Frost told NSN at practice last week. "All the new faces and all the new guys on the O-line were amazed by me. I was, like, 'Wow,' because I've never felt this way because I've always been a guy who kind of sat in the back. Now everybody's pushing me forward. I just want to raise the tempo and the standard for everybody. For sure I want to win the Mountain West championship with my boys and my team because that's something I've had (as a goal) since I was a freshman."

Claiborne, meanwhile, played a part-time role from 2018-20 before emerging as an impact starter in 2021. He played 12 games last year and set a career high with 62 tackles, adding one interception, one forced fumble and four passes defended. After staying with the Wolf Pack through its bowl game, Claiborne entered the transfer portal before recommitting to Nevada. He is the team's top returning tackler. Claiborne has been seen as a leader for all Wolf Pack athletes after stumping for better facilities, especially for women's sports, earlier this year.

Wilson said Frost and Claiborne have remained active with the team despite their injury misfortunes. He painted a positive outlook that the Wolf Pack's other leaders can help fill their void.

"We've got 110 players here, and we've got some good leadership," Wilson said. "Aaron and JoJo are good in the locker room and they're in all the meetings. They know what they're doing. They're just not out here with us right now. They're trying to be out here. They're just not ready yet."

Frost and Claiborne both have one season of college eligibility remaining. If either is out for the year, they could petition the NCAA for another season of eligibility in 2023. With their injuries, the Wolf Pack's only returning starters are running back Toa Taua, the lone returner on offense, safety Tyson Williams, nickel cornerback Bentlee Sanders and defensive lineman Dom Peterson. Kicker Brandon Talton also returns as a starter on special teams.

Another important returner is defensive end Breylon Garcia, who was a spring camp standout but is not listed on the fall roster. Wilson said he could join the team at some point in 2022, depending on his academics.

"He's still trying to get himself eligible to play," Wilson said. "That's his decision right now to get his stuff together."

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