Tennessee defensive back Rashaan Gaulden announced through his Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon that he would be forgoing his senior season and declaring for the NFL Draft.
“After a lot of thought, prayers and counsel from my family and close friends, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft,” Gaulden said. “It has been an honor to wear the Orange and White, and represent the Power T while playing in Neyland Stadium the last four years.”
Gaulden, a redshirt junior out of Spring Hill, Tennessee, went on to thank everyone who helped him throughout his collegiate career.
“To my brothers, the memories will last a lifetime and I will always have your back,” Gaulden said. “To my coaches, thank you for believing in me and developing me into a versatile defensive back. To Vol Nation, THANK YOU for believing in me. There is NO BETTER fan base in the country.
“The process begins for me now as I prepare to pursue my dream of playing in the National Football League,” Gaulden concluded.
According to John Brice of Gridiron Now, Gaulden will be training with Eric Berry – former Vols star – in preparation for the combine and the NFL.
“I’m going to be training in Boca Raton with Tony Villani and Jeremy Lincoln and Eric Berry, getting some good mentoring from him,” Gaulden told Brice. He’s also expected to be represented by Knoxville-based A3 Athletics, which also represents Berry.
The 6-foot-1, 193 pounder declares for the NFL following a season in which he was the Vols best defensive player. Against No. 24 Florida, Gaulden recorded a career-high 10 tackles and picked off a pass that led to Tennessee’s game-tying drive.
Gaulden finishes his career having recorded 140 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and an interception.
With the departure of Gaulden, and the graduation of Justin Martin and Emmanuel Moseley, it’s pivotal Jeremy Pruitt finishes strong in recruiting at the defensive back position. As it appears today, that’s exactly what the Vols first year head coach will do.
Tennessee is currently viewed as the lead for four-star corner Olijah Griffin – the No. 4 rated corner in the class of 2018. The Vols are also in good position to land five-star corner Isaac Taylor-Stuart – the No. 2 ranked corner in the country. If Pruitt can land the two California natives, it’ll soften the blow of losing Gaulden a year early.
Gaulden is the second Vol to declare early for the draft, as running back John Kelly declared on Dec. 29.
Edited by Seth Raborn
Feature image courtesy of Brad Matthews