Rashaan Gualden to Forgo his Senior Season, Enter NFL Draft

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    Photo Credit: Mason Burgin/RTI

    Last week, running back John Kelly announced he planned to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Now another Vol junior is joining Kelly in leaving early for the NFL.

    Defensive back Rashaan Gaulden took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to announce his intention to leave Tennessee a year early and go into the 2018 NFL Draft.

    Gaulden, a 6-foot-1, 193 pound defensive back, was a redshirt junior for the Vols this past season and put together his best year as a Vol despite Tennessee’s abysmal season as a whole. Gaulden totaled 65 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, six passes defended, an interception, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries in 12 games this season.

    Gaulden joined the Vols in 2014 and was just a three-star safety prospect out of middle Tennessee. But he immediately stood out to Tennessee’s coaches, and he looked poised to have a breakout season in 2015 as a sophomore.

    But then injury struck, and Gaulden had to sit out the whole season.

    2016 came, and Gualden made up for lost time. He put together a strong redshirt sophomore campaign by totaling 68 tackles, six tackles for loss, four passes defended, and a forced fumble.

    Gaulden was regarded as Tennessee’s best secondary player on the roster this season, and he primarily played nickel in the Vols’ five defensive back set. He was on the field almost more than any other defender and was the most consistent Vol defender during a lackluster 2017 season for Tennessee.

    He also famously flipped the double birds at Alabama fans after Daniel Bituli returned an interception for a touchdown during the Vols’ match-up with the Tide in Tuscaloosa this season. That was Tennessee’s only touchdown in the game.

    Kelly and Gaulden are the only two Vols to declare early for the NFL draft as of now. They join an outgoing senior class of at least 16 other Vols who will be eligible for the draft.