RaShaan Gaulden has been on Tennessee's "want list" for a long time, even before some of the nation's up-and-coming programs offered him a scholarship. On Saturday, Gaulden finally committed to the Volunteers several months after naming them his leader.
The rangy, 6-foot-1, 175-pound defensive back joined Vic Wharton as 2014 UT commits from Independence High School in Franklin, choosing UT over offers from Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Washington, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Illinois, Kentucky, Duke, Nebraska and others. Gaulden was once really high on the Commodores until UT predictably blew him away the first time he visited.
While most teams want him as a safety, the hard-hitting prospect is being discussed exclusively as a tall, physical cornerback for UT. He joins D'Andre Payne as Tennessee's cornerback commitments in this class. The Vols also have an excellent pair of safety commits in four-stars Todd Kelly Jr. and Cortez McDowell.
With Gaulden's commitment, the Vols have wrapped up the top two defensive back prospects in the state and filled a major need in the process.
A few weeks back, Gaulden camped against universal four-star prospect Josh Malone and shut down one of the nation's top receivers in 7-on-7 action. That performance by Gaulden opened several recruiting analysts' eyes and earned him recognition as one of the nation's top 250 players on Rivals. That pretty much put to rest any doubts about whether or not Gaulden could play corner.
Another big piece of the puzzle for Gaulden's commitment is he is good friends with four-star defensive lineman Derek Barnett, who is one of UT's biggest targets remaining on the board. With Gaulden in the fold, the Vols have to be considered the favorite to land his buddy as well. Gaulden wasn't even an option for the Vols at one point because his relationship with former coach Derek Dooley was nonexistent. Once coach Butch Jones saw him play, he became a priority.
Vols ace recruiter Tommy Thigpen -- who is credited with 12 total commitments in this year's UT class so far -- was Gaulden's lead recruiter.
Despite Gaulden's ties to Wharton and Barnett, he is a big get in his own right. Though 247Sports, Scout and ESPN all have Gaulden as a three-star prospect, Rivals was on hand at the 7-on-7 and believed he earned his ranking as the No. 247-ranked player in the country. There was never any doubts about his physicality and the meeting with Malone showed that his coverage skills are up to par as well.
This ridiculous recruiting week just continues to get better for the Vols. "Foundation Week," as it has been dubbed by UT coach Butch Jones, has now produced five commitments with more expected. Four-star JUCO wide receiver Eric Lauderdale, four-star safety Cortez McDowell, three-star offensive lineman Ray Raulerson and four-star wide receiver Dominique Booth all have committed this week. Gaulden makes it five, and the Vols now have 23 commitments [though at least one is expected to grayshirt].
This one is a major need commitment as well. Welcome to UT, RaShaan!