However, new head coach Butch Jones and his staff have turned things around in a big way as the Vols are now out front of Vanderbilt in the three-star, Thompson Station, Tenn., native's recruitment.
"Every time I come up here and every time I talk to Coach Jancek and Coach Martinez the relationship grows all the time," Gaulden told InsideTennessee.com. "We are just so chill and we are very laid back. That relationship is growing big time."
Before sitting out his junior season when transferring to Independence (Tenn.) High School for his senior, Gaulden finished his sophomore year with 67 tackles and four interceptions. After sitting out a season, Gaulden can't wait to hit the field with Tennessee commitment and recruiting guru Vic Wharton.
"Honestly, until I commit there won't be any letting up from Vic," said Gaulden of the presser from Wharton. "It is going to be an every day — are you going to commit? Are you going to commit? It is constant."
The biggest difference from Dooley's staff to Jones' staff is just the pure attitude and the attention paid to athletes from the moment they step on to campus, which hasn't gone unnoticed by Gaulden.
"It is just the way that they brought us in," he said. "From my first visit — getting to run through the Power T and feeling the love instantly when you walk in here. The coaches greet you at the door. That is big time. Players look at the when they see the coach reaching out to you — you really like that."
A 6-foot-1, 170 pounder, Gaulden especially enjoyed seeing Jones' family day where flocks of former Vols and current Vols families flowed into Neyland Stadium to form the power T for recruits and players alike prior to the Vols first scrimmage of spring ball.
"Getting to meet all the players and their family members, that is big time," Gaulden said. "You get that adrenaline rush and your heart starts beating really fast when you are running through that T. It was fun."
Gaulden is ranked as the No. 66 safety in the 2014 class according to FOX Sports NEXT and has offers from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Duke.
Stay tuned for more Tennessee football recruiting updates from InsideTennessee.com.
InsideTennessee.com managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this report.