Poole, Oku kept each other at UT

Scenes and outtakes from the Vols media day

Tauren Poole felt slighted.

David Oku felt deserted.

It's a good thing Tennessee's tailback tandem shared a dorm room last year. Otherwise, they might not be poised to shine sharing a backfield this season.

"It's weird how things work out," said Oku, a sophomore from Midwest City, Okla.

"I tell him to stay, he told me to stay, and things are working out for the both of us."

That the humble Poole nearly left UT last season isn't really a secret.

The junior from Toccoa, Ga., was mired at fourth on the depth chart behind Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown, former coach Lane Kiffin's prized recruit.

Poole felt his strong performances in spring practice and preseason scrimmages merited more than the 10 carries he got last season.

Those frustrations boiled over when Poole voiced his opinions and Kiffin sent him to the locker room against Memphis last November.

"I know Tauren thought about leaving last year because of his situation," said Oku. "He felt like he (deserved) a lot better."

Both backs kept to themselves for the most part.

"I know David wanted to play more, and of course I wanted to play more, but we never really spoke on it," Poole said.

"Tauren's a quiet guy, I'm a quiet guy," Oku said. "We talked a little bit, not too much."

But Oku said enough to convince Poole to stay.

"We just kept pushing each other," said Oku. "I talk to him, tell him, 'Man, just stay, things will work out. That's just how sometimes it is.'"

The tables turned after Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal in January, prompting Oku to consider a transfer.

"He felt like, of course, Kiffin was his coach," said Poole.

"(I thought) who is this guy?" Oku said of his first impression of Derek Dooley, his new coach. "(Poole told me) 'No, just stay, you'll be fine.'"

Oku took Poole's advice, and both have asserted themselves with Hardesty's departure to the NFL and Brown's transfer. Dooley has heaped praise on both throughout preseason camp for their attitude, consistency and playmaking ability.

"I'm glad he stayed," Poole said. "You can see how well he's doing in this offense, and how he's been productive."

Both said their skills have grown as much as their friendship.

"We both have matured and we've bettered our friendship from both the things we went through last year," Oku said.

"He's like my little brother," Poole said smiling.

"We've grown close, and it's just great to see a guy like that mature and grow into the person he is right now. I just like to see him continue to develop as player and make everyone around him better."

Patrick Brown is a freelance contributor.

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Comments » 39

98memories writes:

Glad you both stayed!

keepitreal4vols writes:

These 2 got NO respect from the coaches last year and it seemed the coaches tried to make them look uncoachable. They hung in there and have my respect, Vols 4 Life.

gtownvol writes:

Thanks to both of you for staying. Tennessee is a great place to be. You will be the start of the resurgence of UT football!! GBO!!

wstalker writes:

I think we are going to be scary good in the backfield this year. Hopefully are offensive line can create holes and let our boys shine. Who needs Bryce Brown anyway.

Vol4Life03 writes:

so glad they stayed oku is going to be one heck of a return man and poole is going to turn more heads in the sec than layla kiffin

jerseydevilvol writes:

in response to jrod:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Oku was third, Poole was 4th

Caspian writes:

Poole DID deserve better. Especially considering his performance in last year's spring game and his run on the very last play of the first game against Western Kentucky. There's no doubt he deserved better.

But you don't always get what you want WHEN you want it. Patience is a scarce commodity these days. That process matured him in a way nothing else could. Leaving would have been a HUGE mistake. He is going to turn more than a few heads this year as a result.

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

Williams not doing much so far?? If not, move him to LB.

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to always_vol:

Williams not doing much so far?? If not, move him to LB.

Of course, I'm the same dunce that said Joh Crompton would make a great strong safety because of his athletic ability, courage, and the fact he'd never be a good QB.

STLVolFan writes:

I understand Pooles frustration but Oku was just a freshman last year. He did set the Tn record for return yards on kickoffs so its not like he never saw the field. You could argue he should have been there more but still.

I am extremely glad both guys are here and think they will be a huge part of the team but the whole attitude of "if I don't play I am transferring" is a little scary. Especially from a true freshman.

HallowedHill writes:

Glad these two stuck it out. I can't remember the last time I saw a back run with such hunger and determination as Poole. I guess it's like playing the blues, you gotta live it to play it.

GO VOLS!

Huttdawg100 writes:

The biggest problem I have with the treatment Poole received from Kiffin was the contradiction: Kiffin preached competition. The best man would play. Poole proved himself through the off season, but Kiffin played Bryce Brown who never proved himself even with all the playing time. It had to be maddening. Many of us even posted comments about his lack of playing time even though he'd impressed through the spring and training camp. Good luck this year TP. I can see the chip on your shoulder from Little Rock.

Huttdawg100 writes:

Soul Glow?

mrvol2u writes:

Thanks guys! Now go out there and play hard. I have always liked the effort these two players gave with when given the chance. Hopefully they will continue to get better and help the passing game.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Monterio Hardesty is a fine example of a guy staying postive, working hard every day, and being prepared when it came his time.

The young pups should have been watching and learning.

volfan#207874 writes:

Patience my dear friends....patience. I perceive that we are not reloading, but actually rebuilding. Give the coaches and the players time to develop into a cohesive unit. Give the coaches 3 or 4 years to get the best available talent to proudly wear the orange and white. We can do our part by not being negative when OUR team does not perform to the level that we desire. Patience is a virtue! "All good things come to he who waiteth...if he worketh like hell while he waiteth. Snakespear

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to Euro_Vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I've never given a hoot in hell whether B. Brown played for us or not. RB's are a dime a dozen, and it's maybe the one position you can easily bring a true freshman in and play (except Phil, who was too damn dumb to play Jamal Lewis unit after Florida kicked our a## "Jamal didn't know all the blocking schemes").

Way too much ink given to Brown; he might be a great RB someday...so what?? Jamal was great, so was travis H, then Travis S, then (fill in the blank). Every know and again you run dry, and have a Jay graham or Arian Foster, guys who can't hold onto the ball.

Sorry for the rant, and no offense to you at all.

JCJ1986 writes:

The more I read stories like this, the more I hate Lane Kiffin. I had no ideas he was treating players like this. Players who were committed to this school and the football program, and Kiffin comes in here and treats them like garbage in order to make good on his recruiting promises. Good riddance to him.

volsnationalchamps writes:

Glad they both stayed,we should go back to like in 90's playing 3 backs. Keep fresh and still get 10-15 carries a piece most games. It worked well then and will now with this group of backs there now. GO VOLS!!!

PEYTONFORHEISMAN1997 writes:

I havent seen Oku in action as much as Poole, but from what I've seen they will both be fine. Poole has impressed me in every scrimmage that we've had. I personally think that he should have been 2nd on the depth chart last year. I was not impressed with Bryce Brown's vision and how he stuttered going into the hole. I saw many times where he could have taken it 30 plus yards instead of 8 to 10 just because he took a bad angle and didn't follow his blockers. They teach these guys to make one move and go. Poole reminds me a lot of Travis Stephens because he runs like its going to be his last carry. I love his running style and hope he will have a great season. It says a lot about this kid's character that he stayed and continued to work hard despite being listed 4th on the depth chart when he should have been 1st or 2nd. Go Vols

tnsportsman writes:

in response to volsnationalchamps:

Glad they both stayed,we should go back to like in 90's playing 3 backs. Keep fresh and still get 10-15 carries a piece most games. It worked well then and will now with this group of backs there now. GO VOLS!!!

Agree with fresh RB's! IMO, CDD is going to do exactly that, run 2 & 3 RBs with reps to keep them fresh.

Thanks Poole and Oku for hanging in there, it's your time now, go make it happen!

GO VOLS, WE ARE UT!

VolGrad writes:

Poole showed flashes of greatness from the time he arrived on campus, but we had a couple of solid backs with seniority playing in front of him. Poole was patient. Then the coaching changes came. Poole continued to work hard to show them what he could do. Everyone of us saw it in the spring scrimmages and each opportunity he got at the end of games. Hardesty paid his dues and finally got the chance he deserved last year, but Brown was always the relief man. Even in games where the outcome was not in doubt, Poole rarely saw action. For a kid, that kind of patience is also rare. You know it had to eat at him. That's what led up to him voicing his opinion to Kiffin during the Memphis game last year when Lane sent him to the locker room. Well, Poole is still here.

Mr. Tauren Poole, THIS is YOUR year. Rock the world! Show LK what he missed out on. But most importantly, be the team leader you are capable of being. Show these younger guys how patient persistence pays off in the end.

Poole will have some huge games this year barring injury. Despite a young, untested OL, he will post some very good numbers.

Go Vols!!!

GR82BAVOL writes:

Poole is a sleeper folks...he runs as hard as Hardesty and is faster...I can't wait to see how he performs...runs like he's in a bad mood every time.

VOLliven2it writes:

I am betting Poole gets more than 10 carries in the UT-Martin game. I would love for both Oku and him to have big days and put the ball in the checkerboard end zone. IMO, he is also doing it the right way with good attitude, good work habits and if we really knew, he probably did watch how Hardesty did it last year. PULLING FOR TAUREN POOLE and OKU in 2010!

VolGrad writes:

Vols vs Skyhawks

Vols 66 Skyhawks 9

Two backs will have 100+ yards rushing. Poole will have 2 TDs and more than 150 yards before he is pulled.

Oku will run a punt return back for a TD.

Difficult to see QB/WR future at this time.... :)

murrayvol writes:

in response to always_vol:

Of course, I'm the same dunce that said Joh Crompton would make a great strong safety because of his athletic ability, courage, and the fact he'd never be a good QB.

A lot of us went down that road.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

The biggest problem I have with the treatment Poole received from Kiffin was the contradiction: Kiffin preached competition. The best man would play. Poole proved himself through the off season, but Kiffin played Bryce Brown who never proved himself even with all the playing time. It had to be maddening. Many of us even posted comments about his lack of playing time even though he'd impressed through the spring and training camp. Good luck this year TP. I can see the chip on your shoulder from Little Rock.

The problem was too many fans believed Kiffin's BS and called the players who did get screwed over lazy or scared to compete. I knew he was full of it from the beginning. Why do you think Creer left? Many others left too because they didnt want to play for someone underhanded. That whole situation should make fans realize that just because a person is UT head coach doesnt mean they should be free from criticism and blindly supported.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to orangeman1:

The problem was too many fans believed Kiffin's BS and called the players who did get screwed over lazy or scared to compete. I knew he was full of it from the beginning. Why do you think Creer left? Many others left too because they didnt want to play for someone underhanded. That whole situation should make fans realize that just because a person is UT head coach doesnt mean they should be free from criticism and blindly supported.

Creer "left" because he couldn't put down the bong. And where is he and the others that got "screwed over"? If any of them were that good we'ed be reading about them. Coaches look for certain things, some different than others. I agree there should be no blind loyalty but the proof is in the performance and the performance of any that have left isn't showing up somewhere else?

utchuckster writes:

in response to STLVolFan:

I understand Pooles frustration but Oku was just a freshman last year. He did set the Tn record for return yards on kickoffs so its not like he never saw the field. You could argue he should have been there more but still.

I am extremely glad both guys are here and think they will be a huge part of the team but the whole attitude of "if I don't play I am transferring" is a little scary. Especially from a true freshman.

Oku was upset that his coach was gone not that he did not get playing time. He, like us, did not know anything about new coach coming in- Now he as well as most of the team has bought into Coach DD

YODA writes:

Strong is the force in these two. Good players they both will be. A young padawan named Jamal reminded of am I.

GBO!

orangeman1 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Creer "left" because he couldn't put down the bong. And where is he and the others that got "screwed over"? If any of them were that good we'ed be reading about them. Coaches look for certain things, some different than others. I agree there should be no blind loyalty but the proof is in the performance and the performance of any that have left isn't showing up somewhere else?

You actually have to go looking for stat and performance of players like BJ Coleman and Lennon Creer. When players transfer to small schools, there isnt alot of publicity. I dont have to have someone tell me Creer was good. I saw it with my own eyes. Just face the fact that Kiffin lied to everyone and people bought into it out of blind loyalty. Just dont take everthing a coach and fans say as truth. There was alot going on behind the scenes.

gatorfan2011 writes:

in response to orangeman1:

You actually have to go looking for stat and performance of players like BJ Coleman and Lennon Creer. When players transfer to small schools, there isnt alot of publicity. I dont have to have someone tell me Creer was good. I saw it with my own eyes. Just face the fact that Kiffin lied to everyone and people bought into it out of blind loyalty. Just dont take everthing a coach and fans say as truth. There was alot going on behind the scenes.

BJ Coleman is actually doing pretty good he should lead the utc mocs to the playoffs if their defense does their part

sirshanksalot writes:

Lest we forget....

David Oku...

■Rated No. 1 overall all-purpose back in 2009 class by Rivals.com
■Also selected as No. 3 prospect in Oklahoma following 2008 season
■Ranked No. 9 among all running backs nationally by Scout.com
■Named SuperPrep All-America
■Named All-State by Tulsa World as senior and junior

■Career totals are 5,802 rushing yards and 72 touchdowns
■Carried for 1,905 yards and 23 touchdowns while leading Carl Albert High to Oklahoma 5A state championship game during senior season
■Carried 182 times for 1,628 yards and 20 touchdowns as junior
■Coach at Carl Albert High School - Gary Rose

volfan53 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

Creer "left" because he couldn't put down the bong. And where is he and the others that got "screwed over"? If any of them were that good we'ed be reading about them. Coaches look for certain things, some different than others. I agree there should be no blind loyalty but the proof is in the performance and the performance of any that have left isn't showing up somewhere else?

Correct me if I am wrong but didn't Creer go to LA Tech to play for CDD. Now Dooley is here and Creer is still there but I don't think CDD would have taken him there if he had a drug problem. I could be wrong but that is where I thought he went.

volfan53 writes:

Plus Creer had to sit out a year since he transferred to a D-1 school.

orangeman1 writes:

in response to volfan53:

Correct me if I am wrong but didn't Creer go to LA Tech to play for CDD. Now Dooley is here and Creer is still there but I don't think CDD would have taken him there if he had a drug problem. I could be wrong but that is where I thought he went.

Ahmad Paige also transferred to LA Tech so I guess we will see how he does this year. People just need to realize how full of hot air Kiffin really was.

diamond_dave35#235769 writes:

in response to volsnationalchamps:

Glad they both stayed,we should go back to like in 90's playing 3 backs. Keep fresh and still get 10-15 carries a piece most games. It worked well then and will now with this group of backs there now. GO VOLS!!!

Just a thought..I remember on some plays Majors would pull Amsler out of the fullback slot and you had the Cobb Webb backfield..now that was fun!!! How about a Poole Oku backfield??

diamond_dave35#235769 writes:

in response to diamond_dave35#235769:

Just a thought..I remember on some plays Majors would pull Amsler out of the fullback slot and you had the Cobb Webb backfield..now that was fun!!! How about a Poole Oku backfield??

On a side note to my last comment..Cobb Webb was also the 89 season where we were picked 7th..Die hards know what happened that year

wayoutwill writes:

in response to wstalker:

I think we are going to be scary good in the backfield this year. Hopefully are offensive line can create holes and let our boys shine. Who needs Bryce Brown anyway.

The best R.B.'s in the country can't run thru a wall,it's sad to see our lines so thin on both sides of the ball.we are gonna get killed this year,hopefully D.D. can get some lineman in here over the next couple years 'cause we got some skill players,just need the beef to run it and to stop the run on the other side.

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