Gaulden was sidelined with a stress fracture in his leg, costing him valuable practice time, and his freshman season was basically lost because of it. Still, Gaulden had it in his mind that he wanted to play and decided to burn his redshirt to play in six games in a reserve role.
It was a curious move, one that even Gaulden agrees with, but gave him experience that he told Badger Nation he hopes to use to his advantage this season.
Why were you so adamant about wanting to get back and play last season? Why not take the year to fully heal and then have all your eligibility remaining? Take me through that decision.
Gaulden: That was the original plan going forward, but it was pretty tough because I thought I got off to a pretty good start when I first came in. I thought I was going to have an opportunity to step in and compete for playing time. While I was rehabbing my leg, Coach Bielema walked over and asked me if I planned on playing this year. As a freshman and being overly excited about wanting to step on the field, I said yes and I came back sooner than I was supposed to. I wish I could take it back, but it is what it is.
If you could go back and do it again, you would redshirt?
Gaulden: Yes and no. At the same time, I got some game experience with the reps I did get and I got a chance to learn the defense. If I would have redshirted, I would have been on scout team and wouldn't have been working on the playbook. I feel more comfortable now so when I do step on the field, I feel like I can hit the ground running.
How much has the defense changed from last year? You have the same defensive coordinators, but some new assistants and a new position coach.
Gaulden: We only experienced two coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball, so the defense is pretty much the same as last year. We feel comfortable. The calls are all the same and the adjustments. We'll be able to build on what we did last year.
How have you changed from last year? You're obviously healthy now, so how have you built yourself to take full advantage of these spring practices?
Gaulden: Right now as far as the mental approach, last year I was sitting behind Antonio Fenelus. I developed with him and saw the things he did well, studying film and the way he approached practices and everything. I felt that helped me from a mental standpoint, so I think I'll be more prepared for this season.
What did Antonio do well in your eyes?
Gaulden: He was a hard worker. He literally approached everything the same and took every practice seriously. I don't remember seeing him miss a practice or a rep. After practices, he's upstairs watching film. He might not have been the fastest guy or the tallest guy, but he made up for the limitations he did have with his work ethic.
How have you changed your body since you got healthy and going through winter conditioning to get physically ready for the season?
Gaulden: I know I am physically stronger. I can take on blocks if I have to and go against bigger receivers. I also feel like I have a better build in my upper body, and Coach Ben Herbert helped change my body up. I've gained 10 pounds of muscle since I have been here.
You are primarily working at corner and there is a spot open with Fenelus having graduated. Talk about your goals going forward in the spring?
Gaulden: My goals are to not make the same mistakes I did as a freshman. I just want to make more plays. I want to compete with Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie, challenge those guys every day and having the same mental approach every day. I want to improve every day.
What does it mean to have Devin Smith back for another season in the secondary?
Gaulden: We are more experienced now and it's nice to have that senior leadership. Without him, we'd be pretty much a young, inexperienced group. With him we gain more experience and leadership, so we've really been listening to him.
What does assistant coach Ben Strickland bring to this group?
Gaulden: I love Coach Strickland. He is a good guy. He is a players' coach and that's because he played here. We can relate to him because of that and he's still young. He has a lot of energy and he loves teaching us. Having him around is a good thing for our group.
A lot of Florida guys I've spoken to, especially cornerbacks, take a lot of pride in their position. Why is that?
Gaulden: It comes from a lot of 7-on-7 in the summertime. I think it's a more competitive attitude growing up down there. A lot of guys play press coverage and in press coverage if you get beat, that's not a good feeling to have. We talk a whole lot of pride in that and being competitors. We have a lot of competitive guys down there.
What's it like for you then coming here with that competitive background? It sounds like you get up in people's faces at the line of scrimmage and play that type of press coverage, so how does it help when you go up against receivers that aren't used to that aggressive mentality?
Gaulden: I think it definitely gives me an edge because some receivers aren't used to that competitive, all-up-in-your-face player that brings that type of aggressiveness to the position. Not many people are expecting it at all.
How happy are you going to be now that you have that experience -whether you regret it or not – and you'll be able to hit the ground running this spring and go into next season having some time under your belt?
Gaulden: I love it because as a freshman in the summertime, I had to heal my leg and I wasn't healthy at all. This year I won't have that problem so getting this time is going to be a big help for me. I am hopefully to compete for the starting cornerback position and the nickel position, and help this team where I can.