Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling made his way to Haywood (Tenn.) High School on Oct. 17. Stripling is joined by head coach Butch Jones and other staff members in the recruitment of the Scout four-star prospect.
"We're really, really close,” Gooden said. “They treat me well. I'm closest with them and (Ole Miss). Those staffs treat me real good."
Another West Tennessee product that is already on the Orange & White roster is lineman and former Scout four-star Charles Mosley, who is friends with Gooden.
"(Charles Mosley) texts me from time to time, and I really like that,” Gooden said. “He's the man. I'd love to play with my boy. That's my dog right now. .... I'm close with (Cam Sutton) too. I look up to him a lot. I like how close (Tennessee's team) is. I like that about them."
Gooden was last on Rocky Top the weekend the Volunteers hosted then-No. 4 Alabama “just to get the vibe of that place” and to “get to know that program a little bit more.”
Big Orange Country’s activity on social media brings a smile to Gooden’s face.
"Tennessee fans show me the most love on Twitter by far. I love that, man."
After a junior day event on Rocky Top in February, the Brownsville resident gave his verbal commitment to Tennessee. Since then, he has backed off that pledge and opened up his recruitment in late April.
"I just feel like I made a decision too soon,” the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder said. “It's not like I don't like Tennessee or something like that. I'm still really high on them."
Ole Miss is among the top contenders with Tennessee to land Scout’s top-rated defensive lineman in the Volunteer State’s 2016 class. Alabama, Mississippi State, Notre Dame and Ohio State are all potential landing spots as well.
Gooden says he intends to be back in Knoxville when the Volunteers host Missouri on Nov. 22. He hasn’t ruled out a trip to Starkville this weekend to see Mississippi State play UT-Martin.
Gooden’s junior season came to a close last Friday as Haywood finished with a 4-6 record, which wasn’t enough to get the Tomcats into the 2014 TSSAA Class 4A state playoffs.