Vol commit tallies 35 tackles

RaShaan Gaulden

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The spread of zone-option offenses continues to put more and more pressure on safeties to be active and efficient tacklers.

Today's ideal safety is as athletic as a cornerback and as tough as a linebacker.

It's a hard combination to come by.

It looks like the Vols found that mixture in class of 2014 commit RaShaan Gaulden.

The Independence (Tenn.) High School product tallied an astonishing 35 tackles against Beech High School on Friday night.

The FOX Sports and Scout three-star hopes his performance shows he is a complete safety and can handle the physical demands of the SEC.

"I think it really shows my physicality. It's about discipline all around," Gaulden told InsideTennessee on Saturday. "I'm good in pass coverage and I can come up and be physical. I feel like I'm the total package."

Gaulden said his 35 tackles bests his previous career-high by 18 tackles.

The Buccaneers challenged Independence between the tackles on Friday, running the ball play after play.

Independence linebackers needed help slowing the attack. Gaulden found himself sticking his nose in the alley and playing in the box.

Gaulden's Eagles lost in a 28-21 grudge match.

"I think it shows my heart. (Beech) just kept pounding it and grounding it," said Gaulden, a teammate of fellow Vol commit Vic Wharton. "I'm satisfied with my performance, yeah, but I can't be happy because we lost. If it's not a win, there's nothing to be happy about."

A 35-tackle performance is bound to gain the attention of schools across the country, but Gaulden said he is "100 percent" committed to Tennessee.

"Every now and then coaches (from other schools) try to get a hold of me," Gaulden said. "But I'm not even thinking about going anywhere else. I'm going to Tennessee.

"I'm always respectful when other coaches call me, but I say I'm sold to Tennessee and there's nothing you can do about it."

Gaulden has been watching Tennessee's defense this season with a critical eye.

So far, he likes what he sees from John Jancek's bunch.

"I love their style. I see myself fitting into the system well," Gaulden said. "All those turnovers against Western (Kentucky), that was awesome. I feel like the secondary has been playing real physical, too."

Gaulden said he plans to attend every Tennessee home game.

But even with the 6-foot-1, 178-pounder making the short drive to the Knoxville weekend after weekend, Gaulden still hears from UT coaches on a weekly basis.

"Man, they call me all the time," Gaulden said. "At least three times a week it feels like. I have a great relationship with all the coaches."

Gaulden said he usually hears from Tennessee head coach Butch Jones once a week, but primarily talks to linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who served as his lead recruiter.

Gaulden listed his relationship with Thigpen as one of the main reasons he pledged to Tennessee.

"It's like a father-son relationship. The conversations (with Thigpen) are about everything," Gaulden told IT. "It's not just football. It's about life and anything. (Thigpen's) just one of the coolest guys I've ever talked to and been around. He's awesome."

Gaulden said his personal goal this season is to improve his pass coverage and play recognition skills.

"I feel like I'm really good with open field tackling," Gaulden said. "I win that battle 99 percent of the time. But you can never be satisfied. I hope to get a little better in coverage this year."

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