Vols commit Wharton's hardest sell on UT might be teammate

10:14 AM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
Vic Wharton, right, and RaShaan Gaulden pose for a photograph at Independence High School in Thompson's Station, Tenn., Tuesday, June 18, 2013. / Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean
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Written by: Maurice Patton, The Tennessean

As good of a football player as Vic Wharton III has been over the past three seasons, the versatile Independence standout also has exhibited some solid recruiting abilities since becoming the first member of the 2014 class to commit to Tennessee under Butch Jones.

"All of us are doing a lot of recruiting," Wharton said of the 17 members of his recruiting class. "I took the lead by being the first commit, and then Todd Kelly (Knoxville Webb defensive back) came along and started recruiting with me. We're just trying to win a national championship before we leave."

The Vols' class is ranked third by Rivals.com and fifth by 247sports.com.

The nephew of former Tennessee point guard Brandon Wharton has organized Twitter campaigns and made personal contact with recruits to convey the importance becoming a Volunteer.

While convincing some others to join him, though, Wharton has encountered some resistance - on his own high school team.

Defensive backRaShaan Gaulden, a standout in his own right, is determined not to decide on a college destination for another few months despite a friendship with Wharton that dates back nearly 10 years.

"He knows the pressuring deal isn't my thing," said Gaulden, who has offers from Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Nebraska in addition to the Volunteers. "When UT lands a big commitment, he'll send me a text telling me it's time for me. But he usually backs off and lets me do what I need to do."

"I really like UT. It's a great program, they've got some great coaches, and they're doing a lot of stuff you want to see from a program that wasn't really that great last year. Even though they haven't played a down, they're already turning heads. They definitely have my attention."

But after sitting out his junior season as a transfer from Brentwood Academy - where he led the team with 72.5 tackles, five forced fumbles and four interceptions in 2011 - Gaulden said his focus is on his performance more than his recruitment.

"We'll be traveling around this summer, seeing what the best fit is for me," he said. "But all recruitment aside, I'm just trying to get back on the football field. That year away was stressful, but I think I've gotten better at my craft."

Vic Wharton Jr., who coaches track and serves as a football assistant at Independence, has watched his son put teams together for years, from youth basketball to middle school football.

"He might be a better recruiter than football player," the older Wharton said. "But Vic respects RaShaan's decision to wait.

"A lot of times, he puts pressure on a recruit that you already know where you want to go, why would you want to try to get an offer from a school you have no intention of attending? You need to go ahead and commit. But RaShaan truly does not know where he wants to go, and Vic respects that and he's backed off."

Vic Wharton and Kelly worked on persuading standout Beech running back Jalen Hurd to commit - which he did in March - as well as out-of-state players Neiko Creamer, DeAndre Payne and Orlando Brown.

"He's really been one of Tennessee's most effective recruiters for this class, almost as much as a fulltime coach," said Ryan Callahan, who covers UT recruiting for govols247.com. "He has really taken to the social media side of things and reached out to everyone he knows and some he doesn't know.

"I think they knew he was going to be that way when they started, but they've probably been pleasantly surprised with how much he's done along those lines."

Wharton is willing to be patient with Gaulden.

"I used to be on him really hard, but right now, I'm backing off and letting him think about his decision," Wharton said. "We'll be boys no matter what, but I really can't see him not playing with me."

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