The nation's number one all-purpose RB recruit in the Class of 2009 will transfer and leave the Vols. David Oku leaves Tennessee after two seasons in a backup role, as confirmed by Derek Dooley via The Knoxville-News Sentinel:
"David has handled this situation in a professional way, and we mutually agreed that his departure is best for him and for our program," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.
Oku played behind Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown as a true freshman, and was behind Tauren Poole and, at times, Rajion Neal this season. He saw some action as a kick returner, but never became a significant contributor to the Vol offense. He ran for 94 yards as a freshman and 174 yards this season.
Brent Hubbs at VolQuest.com believes Oku will be granted a release, which you can read into Dooley's statement. Oku becomes the latest casualty from Lane Kiffin's highly-touted 2009 recruiting class - just two years later, six of the top twelve players in that class are no longer with the program.
The bigger problem for the Vols is the future at RB - Tauren Poole will return for his senior season, with sophomore Rajion Neal behind him...but after that, it's murky. Toney Williams is still around, but never got a chance to contribute or prove himself coming off ACL surgery. The Vols have commitments from three-star RBs Tom Smith and Devrin Young, but neither are thought to be the definitive solution for the future. Then again, we thought we wouldn't be worried about this position for years when Bryce Brown and David Oku were signed together in '09. One name to watch out for in this class could be Marlin Lane, the nation's #8 RB who has decommitted from Clemson and will hopefully visit Knoxville this weekend.
With Tyler Bray slinging it, perhaps the need is a little smaller...but Tennessee still has to find a dependable running back for 2012 (or 2011 if Poole gets injured). We thought Oku could've been that guy, but he never fully developed in Knoxville. We wish him the best in the future...and hope the Vols can find the RB of the future elsewhere.