Devin Gaulden didn’t appear in a single game last season while recovering from ACL surgery. But his impact on the Badgers during spring practices was evident. Gaulden has put himself in position to serve as the team’s third cornerback, which would allow the Badgers to play a nickel package with Darius Hillary.
Gaulden sustained his ACL injury back on Sept. 22, 2012, during a game against UTEP, when he felt his right leg stick into the turf while making a tackle on special teams. The road to recovery was not easy because he kept injuring his patella, first while doing squats in the weight room and later while performing drills after coaches told him to rest.
This will be Gaulden’s first season playing for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, and his style of play should fit in well with Aranda’s philosophy.
"I definitely like the aggressive style he’s bringing to the defense," Gaulden said this spring. "A lot of press coverage. A lot of press man bump and run. I feel that’s a strength of mine is getting up and having the confidence to challenge receivers and put my hands on receivers. So that’s a huge complement to my game. I feel like that’s a big part of what I love about this defense."
In his college career, the redshirt junior from Miramar, Fla., has appeared in 10 games and made five tackles. Expect those numbers to take a significant jump, largely because Gaulden is finally healthy. Wisconsin will need players with game experience as it searches for the right combination of players on the back end of the defense. Teammates, meanwhile, have raved about Gaulden’s work ethic and the positive attitude he’s brought to the group.
Gaulden has set forth two goals for himself for the 2014 season.
"As far as short-term goals, just get there," Gaulden said. "Get to the start of the season. Be healthy. And my second is to make an impact and contribute to the team, whether that’s special teams, on the defense, whatever. Just contribute to the team and help us get wins."
What would they do without him?
Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary are the more established cornerbacks, but Gaulden has experience that no other backup has on the team. Without Gaulden, Wisconsin very well would have to use a formula it tried a year ago by playing safeties in spots that should be occupied by cornerbacks.
Aranda would much prefer situations that involve three cornerbacks on the field than a bunch of safeties, and that is an area in which Gaulden could shine. The coaching staff wants its best people on the field, and Gaulden has worked his way into that spot.