Gaulden: 'Best junior day I have been to'

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Fans have been made well aware of the recruiting habits of former head coach Derek Dooley, but it seems as though a new leaf has been turned in Knoxville.

Under the leadership of new head coach Butch Jones and his staff, recruits seem to have been enlightened to a whole new side of Rocky Top and that includes in-state safety prospect RaShaan Gaulden.

"Coach Jones definitely showed me something today with the experience that we got to have running out of the T, meeting the players and just having a good time today," Gaulden told InsideTennessee. "It is something that I am going to remember.

"There is a difference from back when Dooley was recruiting me. They definitely climbed charts just from today."

With Jones at the helm, Gaulden says there is just something in the air around the Tennessee program.

"I feel (the swagger), trust me," he said. "Not being that much of a Tennessee fan and hearing coach Jones talk about all his championships and seeing all his players believing in his philosophy, I really feed on that."

Tennessee commitment Vic Wharton is recruiting Gaulden as hard as anyone.
(Danny Parker/
Gaulden, who measured in at 6-foot-1, 178 pounds, says the conversations with the new coaching staff set the Vols apart during his first trip to Knoxville this year.

"Conversation with the coaches — (defensive backs) coach (Willie) Martinez and (linebackers) coach (Tommy) Thigpen, they reached out to me pretty much all day," he said. "I just felt comfortable with them.

"Coach Martinez — he was on me like glue. I just love spending time and talking with him. I am definitely going to be up here again soon. Coach Thig, too. I love him. He is a cool, down-to-earth dude."

And while the Tennessee coaches might want Gaulden bad, it seems there is no one that wants him more than Independence (Tenn.) High School teammate and current Vols commitment Vic Wharton.

"Vic — him and his parents are just nagging me about UT," Gaulden said. "They are just like 'when are you going to commit?' But I did have a good experience up here and they definitely weren't lying.

"We have been good friends since we were 4-years-old running track against each other. That is a pretty big deal. He is working on me slowly. I act like it doesn't matter, but he is nagging me and it could be working."

Perhaps the only recruit closer to Gaulden than Wharton is four-star wide receiver Josh Malone, who is from nearby Station Camp, Tenn., and accompanied Gaulden for the junior day trip.

"We talk about recruiting all the time," Gualden said. "Me and Josh (Malone), we are probably going to the same college. We are tight like that and we talk about different recruiting things and we usually go on visits together."

Tennessee is still trying to play catch up with Vanderbilt, who has been on the mid-state athlete from the jump.

"I feel at home with Vanderbilt," he said. "They are at the top of my list right now. Coming here and getting the chemistry with the new coaches though — they are climbing my board big time."

Other schools drawing interest from Gaulden include Kentucky, Ole Miss, Florida and Florida State.

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