Gooden played in all 13 games as a true freshman, mainly on special teams, and finished with 10 tackles for the season. As a sophomore in 2004, Gooden started nine games at weakside linebacker and finished the season with 83 tackles. He received a medical redshirt in 2005 after injuring his shoulder in the season opener against Florida State. He started four games in 2006 and finished with 41 total tackles.
It was his 2007 season, however, that put his name on the NFL radar. When Glenn Cook and Romeo Davis went down with injuries, Gooden was moved to the middle because of his experience. Under first year linebackers coach Micheal Barrow, Gooden flourished and emerged as one of the premier linebacker prospects in the entire country. He finished the year with 100 tackles, making a very smooth transition to the middle.
Gooden was the second inside linebacker selected in this year's draft, behind only Oklahoma's Curtis Lofton.