Running back David Oku to transfer

Dooley says 'departure is best for him and for our program'

Everything you wanted to know about David Oku in 8 minutes or less

David Oku

David Oku

Outward unhappiness and a lack of “conviction” highlighted the two years tailback David Oku spent at Tennessee.

Oku’s time with the Vols is over, as UT announced Friday that the former top-ranked all-purpose back will transfer after the spring semester. He will not participate in any football-related activities from now until his departure.

“David has handled this situation in a professional way, and we mutually agreed that his departure is best for him and for our program,” coach Derek Dooley said in a university statement.

Oku, who was ranked the No. 1 all-purpose back by Rivals.com out of Midwest City, Okla., was considered a late steal for Lane Kiffin’s first and only signing class in 2009, as Oku announced his decision more than one month after National Signing Day. Teamed with Bryce Brown, who was then considered one of the top overall prospects in 2009, Oku helped give UT one of the most hyped freshman backfields in the country.

Both players are now no longer with the team.

Bogged down on the depth chart behind Brown and Montario Hardesty, Oku, who also saw action on kick returns, carried the ball just 23 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns during his freshman season. It didn’t get much better as a sophomore, as Oku amassed 174 yards on 42 carries while losing hold of his backup role to freshman Rajion Neal throughout spurts of the season.

After Oku’s slow start to the 2010 season, Dooley called out the tailback for his pensive running style.

“I’ve seen nothing from him,’’ Dooley said, “other than an inability to make yards.”

“I don’t think he’s running with any conviction and I told him that.’’

Oku did not touch the ball during a three-game stretch in October.

“I mean, everybody was wondering what was going on,” Oku said in a November interview with the News Sentinel. “But Coach Dooley felt like I wasn’t doing good. Down the stretch a little bit, he felt like just not playing me for a second would get me back going right. I guess it worked out, so you can’t argue with it.

“I mean, as a player you don’t see it. But I guess coaches see it sometimes different. I was wondering myself what happened. I didn’t go in and question it or ask any questions or anything like that. I was just like, ‘All right, ride it out and see what happens.’ That’s basically just what happened.”

Oku had a brief revival in a Nov. 20 game at Vanderbilt, when he caught a 34-yard pass out of the backfield, but never really threatened to rekindle the high school magic that prompted most major programs in the country to offer him a scholarship.

Oku left the team for more than a week during Music City Bowl practice for two family funerals. He returned shortly before the team departed to Nashville, but did not touch the ball in UT’s 30-27 double overtime loss to North Carolina.

Oku is the sixth player signed by Kiffin who is no longer with the team. Brown, defensive back Mike Edwards, wide receiver James Green, defensive back Darren Myles and wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson are the others.

Oku’s departure leaves the Vols even thinner at running back than they anticipated heading into the 2011 season. UT returns just two tailbacks with significant experience, Tauren Poole and Neal, along with Toney Williams, who carried the ball five times for 11 yards as a redshirt freshman.

Apopka, Fla., running back Tom Smith (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) and Bearden’s Devrin Young (5-7, 156) have committed to sign in 2011, and the Vols are certainly looking to add another tailback to the class by National Signing Day on Feb. 2

Andrew Gribble covers Tennessee football and recruiting. He may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble/

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Comments » 193

pvvol writes:

Too bad. The more RBs the better.

tulelakevol writes:

?

revjulian writes:

Oku, thanks for your contributions to the Big Orange. But most of all, thanks for handling your business (playing, transferring, etc.) like a man and not a little kid like some other running back that left the prgram last year. We would hope you could stay but wish you the best.

SeanJean writes:

Super good kid. Wish him the best of luck and hope he finds a good fit.

volgrog#210164 writes:

Not a big surprise. For whatever reason, it never seemed like Oku and coach Dooley where on the same page. Wish him the best unless he transfers to Alabama.

volsnationalchamps writes:

Not surprising,but hate to see him go. Best of luck OKU hope it works out for you.

wsmows writes:

Good luck we'll be rooting for you, unless you go to Alabama.

JtDL writes:

I hate to see Oku go - I think he was going to be one of the Volunteer greats in a year or two.

Rockygrass writes:

Disappointing to see any player leave our program. I think we'll be just fine...

voloffaith writes:

Agree he handled this situation better than a prior rb did. Maybe because less handlers to mess things up. I applaud him for the public handling of this....not via text messagingetc.

murrayvol writes:

No big surprise given recent events. Wish him well.

RB corps is getting thin.

voloffaith writes:

Ya gotta feel for the stadium announcer with his loss of OKUUUUUUUU

finn writes:

in response to revjulian:

Oku, thanks for your contributions to the Big Orange. But most of all, thanks for handling your business (playing, transferring, etc.) like a man and not a little kid like some other running back that left the prgram last year. We would hope you could stay but wish you the best.

Yep, Dooley's pretty easy to work with when you man up and act like an adult vs lobbing a couple text messages his way. Oku was always a solid team player and I'm sorry to hear the news.

VolinCalif writes:

Had a feeling this might be coming. I also read where many others had the same thoughts. Too bad, we need RB's but I don't think that David was ever very happy being a backup. Why too much HS glory to live up to and this is the SEC where he is now playing not as easy as HS. Good luck to the young man.

tnbigg writes:

Great young man. Wishing him the best.

kevin151 writes:

Another prima donna that was a all over the place during recruiting, that in the end wasn't worth all the hype. I think Dooley has a good vision and seems to be avoiding these type of players.

Vol13 writes:

Another one of the great Lane Kiffin/Ed Orgeron mega-stud 5* Rivals.com, overrated/didn't pan out signees falls by the wayside. Kiffin's awesome #10 revised ranked recruiting class likely not in the Top 30 anymore. Bummer.

82cat writes:

For some reason I just never saw anything great about his performance. He isnt powerful and never seemed to have the break away speed or field vision expected.

He was given every opportunity by both coaching staffs to perform and for what ever reason it just didnt happen.Its not that he was bad he was basically just ok in spots.

Seems like a good kid and I hope he lands somewhere and gets his degree but I just dont see this as a big loss.

Poole
Neal

are set as 1 and 2 for 2011 who will be the 3rd guy or the guy to challenge for PT

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

Oku has my respect because he handled this in a very professional manner, unlike some other running back that took the cowardly way out..Anyway, best of luck to him wherever he decides to go..No hard feelings from my perspective.

SummittsCourt writes:

Good luck! Now when's kickoff?

VolinCalif writes:

No Dead Head I don't pay GVX247. What I was referring to was the many posters that were suspicious that David was going to leave. There have several mention that possibility this past season because of his lack of playing time. Sorry if I made it sound as a art'l in print.

TommyJack writes:

That's 2 RB's FHCLK missed on. But good luck to Oku.

huntined#565710 writes:

I wish him the best and thank him for his time with the VOLS. We have a good back in Tom Smith out of Apopka FL. that will do just fine at TENN.

huntined#565710 writes:

Does anyone know how many players we can bring in this year???

dvols writes:

staying in school and getting a degree would seem to be a wise choice......not everybody can play in the NFL......

volzcrushm writes:

ARE WE MAKING ROOM FOR TOM SMITH AND.....MARLIN LANE??

volsfan74 writes:

Several things to note. 1. CDD and Oku handled this 1st class. I think it shows CDD was not the problem with Brown or Douglas. 2. The STARS everyone is complaining we are not getting 5 star guys, I think Brown and Oku are good examples that Rivals/ Scouts rankings is not everything. Having Big Time SEC defensive players coming at you is a lot different that a high school defensive player. I trust our coaches evaluation much more than a pay to subscribe website evaluating talent.

Good Luck Mr. Oku thank you for showing class and respect, I wish the best and hope to see you playing somewhere on Saturdays.

volinlouisiana writes:

in response to volzcrushm:

ARE WE MAKING ROOM FOR TOM SMITH AND.....MARLIN LANE??

No, we were going to sign 2 backs in this class regardless. I'm just hoping 1 less young back to compete with might sway a big time back like Marlin Lane to come our way.
Assuming we don't mind that he was in a car that was pulled over by police with weed present.

RoyaltyVol writes:

What a waste. Brown and Oku both were over rated imo. I've see 2 and 3 star backs come to UT and turn out to be 10 times the back these 2 were. You didn't see Kiffin win too many games this year at USC did you, with all those 4 and 5 star players. CDD will get us turned around.

volinlouisiana writes:

in response to RoyaltyVol:

What a waste. Brown and Oku both were over rated imo. I've see 2 and 3 star backs come to UT and turn out to be 10 times the back these 2 were. You didn't see Kiffin win too many games this year at USC did you, with all those 4 and 5 star players. CDD will get us turned around.

I agree.
I read an article a couple of days ago on 3SIB that compared/contrasted CLK's and CDD's recruiting styles.
The author said Kiffin was all about flash and making 200+ offers to all the highly rated kids and wanted to make headlines. He went on to say Dooley is slow to offer anyone that he hasn't taken time to personally speak to and his concerned about the right fit for his system.
If this is true, and I suspect it may be, then that is pretty telling. Kiffin = all flash no substance and Dooley= substence not much flash.
I like the future at UT given our latest philosophy.

VOLliven2it writes:

I am sorry to see him go but did wonder when he "disappeared from the radar" all that time. I had wondered if he and Coach Dooley had not gelled. Wish him well and believe we will be fine. Nothing wrong with having the high numbered star players but when they do not work out, a scholarship has been forfeited. I want coachable guys who will play their guts out, grow and learn and get better week by week. Are there any such recruits out there?

volinlouisiana writes:

in response to MrPearl2:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Folks, we have an insider. He was there for the conversations between Dooley and the tranfers.
Any other scoops for us?

DancingOutlaw writes:

I think it was pretty clear this was coming. Had to deal with being behind hardesty and brown last year, now he comes into this year and a guy that only ever saw action in the O&W game is starting over him. Not only that, but he's splitting time with a freshman and that guy is getting more looks. Couldn't catch a punt to save his life. He never really broke any long runs, I just remember a lot of off tackle fall downs. He was sold a dream by Kiffin that didn't pan out. The problem with 5* talent is that you're at the top of the heap in high school and the bottom of the depth chart in college. Many cannot handle that humility, and give up trying to get better or make an impact.

tgiles1944#654264 writes:

Good luck David Oku!

mountainbrook writes:

I'm not surprised by this at all. I wish him well.

Volunatic writes:

Best of luck to you, David. Sorry to hear that you will be leaving the Vols.

volsfan74 writes:

in response to volinlouisiana:

I agree.
I read an article a couple of days ago on 3SIB that compared/contrasted CLK's and CDD's recruiting styles.
The author said Kiffin was all about flash and making 200+ offers to all the highly rated kids and wanted to make headlines. He went on to say Dooley is slow to offer anyone that he hasn't taken time to personally speak to and his concerned about the right fit for his system.
If this is true, and I suspect it may be, then that is pretty telling. Kiffin = all flash no substance and Dooley= substence not much flash.
I like the future at UT given our latest philosophy.

Good Post... Look at the number of 4 & 5 star players at Florida, Texas and USC compared to us this season and look at their unimpressive records It's not all about stars.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to volsfan74:

Several things to note. 1. CDD and Oku handled this 1st class. I think it shows CDD was not the problem with Brown or Douglas. 2. The STARS everyone is complaining we are not getting 5 star guys, I think Brown and Oku are good examples that Rivals/ Scouts rankings is not everything. Having Big Time SEC defensive players coming at you is a lot different that a high school defensive player. I trust our coaches evaluation much more than a pay to subscribe website evaluating talent.

Good Luck Mr. Oku thank you for showing class and respect, I wish the best and hope to see you playing somewhere on Saturdays.

Above you posted "I trust our coaches evaluation much more than a pay to subscribe website evaluating talent."

Well according to the "pay" websites Tennessee, Auburn, Louisville, Michigan, Ole' Miss, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Syracuse felt this kid could play ball. Not a bad list. The REAL issue with Oku was Jane Kiffin. He promised him early PT. Oku has 1,000 tons of upside, but should have red-shirted. He suffered MAJORLY from not red-shirting. So while I agree with MOST of your post, I have to disagree with the bashing of Oku's evaluation. His offer list speaks for itself IMO.

huntined#565710 writes:

in response to volinlouisiana:

Folks, we have an insider. He was there for the conversations between Dooley and the tranfers.
Any other scoops for us?

Ole Bill Moyer don't have a track on anything..

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

RoyaltyVol writes:

in response to volinlouisiana:

I agree.
I read an article a couple of days ago on 3SIB that compared/contrasted CLK's and CDD's recruiting styles.
The author said Kiffin was all about flash and making 200+ offers to all the highly rated kids and wanted to make headlines. He went on to say Dooley is slow to offer anyone that he hasn't taken time to personally speak to and his concerned about the right fit for his system.
If this is true, and I suspect it may be, then that is pretty telling. Kiffin = all flash no substance and Dooley= substence not much flash.
I like the future at UT given our latest philosophy.

Amen brother! It may take 2-4 more years, but UT football will be back on top under CDD imo.

TennVol01 writes:

Good luck David. I am unsure why you did not get more playing time here at UT, but we will miss you. And as others have written, thanks for being mature about your transfer request. Any team will be fortunate to have you.

volinlouisiana writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Above you posted "I trust our coaches evaluation much more than a pay to subscribe website evaluating talent."

Well according to the "pay" websites Tennessee, Auburn, Louisville, Michigan, Ole' Miss, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Syracuse felt this kid could play ball. Not a bad list. The REAL issue with Oku was Jane Kiffin. He promised him early PT. Oku has 1,000 tons of upside, but should have red-shirted. He suffered MAJORLY from not red-shirting. So while I agree with MOST of your post, I have to disagree with the bashing of Oku's evaluation. His offer list speaks for itself IMO.

I agree with your conclusions about the pay sites, but I don't agree with your conclusion in this case.
It seemed to me that Dooley didn't want a speedy little scat back, or Oku wasn't fast enough to be that given his size. I say that because Dooley was so intent on beefing him up this offseason. I remember before this season even started, Oku complaining that the extra pounds had made him slower. So, I'm assuming DD wanted him to be able to run between the tackles and Oku just couldn't do it effectively.
This makes me question why Dooley is going after Devrin Young a player that is similiar to Oku in high school.

dead_vol_foul (Inactive) writes:

Look, this is simple:
-no breakaway speed
-no power
-no shiftiness
-could not run 'north/south'

He should have watched Montario and learned this:
you run like every play is your last.

He might be a great guy, but he's gotta improve that football mentality.

69grad writes:

in response to wsmows:

Good luck we'll be rooting for you, unless you go to Alabama.

Or Florida.

thevoice writes:

I mean, this is no big surprise if you put things together. I mean, No. 1 running back out of HS + minimal paying time = new address. Good luck, David.

tneagle writes:

in response to pvvol:

Too bad. The more RBs the better.

This is our #1 recruiting need. We need a top 10 recruit at running back. I think this was the number one reason we lost in the Music City Bowl.
We've got to get a running game going. Poole seems to be able to have a few big runs, but isn't consistent. Coach D., get us a big recruit at RB!

dowhatsright writes:

I'm pleased that most of the people who post here have class and are wishing this young man well. That is so much better than what you see on Yahoo or other places where people post. I think UT fans have more class than fans of a lot of other schools.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to Vol13:

Another one of the great Lane Kiffin/Ed Orgeron mega-stud 5* Rivals.com, overrated/didn't pan out signees falls by the wayside. Kiffin's awesome #10 revised ranked recruiting class likely not in the Top 30 anymore. Bummer.

If you can show me where he was a 5* I will buy you a Ruth Chris steak dinner the next time you are in K-Town. That's worth about $75 in case you didn't know (I'm convinced you didn't). And how can you say he didn't pan out? He's a true sophomore, in REALITY he should be a red-shirt Freshman. He needed red-shirt BADLY IMO. According to your theory Monterio Hardesty was a bust. I'm 100% SURE that Hardesty didn't do any more than OKU at this point and time in his career. Bryce Brown will be a BEAST at K-State, watch and see.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Sorry to lose you, David. Thanks for the 2 years you spent being a Vol with us. We wish you all the best wherever you go.

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