Before spring practice starts, RockyTopInsider.com will take a look at 16 uncommitted prospects to watch in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Click here for the full 2016 commitment list.
Other top offers
Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Penn State
Gooden is another consensus top-5 player in the state of Tennessee (No. 1 according to 247Sports), and is among the Vols’ top targets in 2016. The Vols were his first big offer last January when they officially told Gooden that he had a spot in the 2016 class ahead of Tennessee’s spring Junior Day on February 15th, and Gooden responded by committing to the Vols when he made it to town that weekend. Gooden would actually decommit from Tennessee a month later ahead of a visit to Ole Miss, but the Vols have remained at, or near the top, of his leaderboard throughout the process.
Gooden officially named Mississippi State as his leader back in October, but after a couple of late-season visits to Knoxville and some time talking to current Vol coaches and players, the talented defensive end has once again named Tennessee as his leader. The Vols likely have a lot of work left to do if they plan on securing a commitment and eventual signature from Gooden, but Butch Jones and his staff have made the in-state defensive end a huge priority for the 2016 class – which means Vol fans should feel very good about the chances of Gooden ending up in orange.
RTI average: 4-stars
How He Fits
Gooden is big, deceptively fast and very instinctive in the way he plays the game. He isn’t the most explosive player at the point of attack, but he uses his strength and stance to avoid blocks and fight towards the ball carrier. He is a sure-tackler when he gets his hands on a running back or quarterback, and does a great job os staying focused on his keys and not getting sucked in by play-action or zone-read fakes. As he develops his body and works to refine his technique and fundamentals, he has the potential to be a force at the next level from his DE spot. The Vols signed one of the best defensive line classes in the country in 2015, and adding players of Gooden’s quality in 2016 would only increase the depth and talent of an impressive depth chart along the DL.