Oku's role with the team steadily declined as the 2010 season progressed. The 5-10, 195-pound sophomore got 26 carries in Games 1-4, then carried just 16 times the rest of the season. He did not get a single carry in Game 6 vs. Georgia, Game 7 vs. Alabama, Game 8 vs. South Carolina, the regular-season finale vs. Kentucky or the Music City Bowl game vs. North Carolina.
Tauren Poole rushed for 1,034 yards as the Vols' starting tailback in 2010 and projects to retain the first-team job in 2011. Freshman Rajion Neal supplanted Oku as the No. 2 tailback as the 2010 season came to a close and projects to be the chief backup in 2011. Neal rushed 37 times for 169 yards and a 4.6 per-carry average in 2010.
Oku finished the 2010 season with 42 carries for 174 yards and a 4.1 per-carry average. He carried 23 times for 94 yards as a true freshman in 2009. His career-long run was a 44-yarder in last fall's opener vs. UT Martin.
He excelled as a kickoff-return specialist in 2009, averaging 26.2 yards on 33 runbacks. Oku struggled with that duty in 2010, however, averaging just 19.5 yards on 15 returns.
“David has handled this situation in a professional way, and we mutually agreed that his departure is best for him and for our program,” head football coach Derek Dooley said in a prepared statement.
Oku's departure leaves Tennessee a little thin at tailback. The only scholarship tailback other than Poole and Neal is redshirt freshman Toney Williams, who carried five times for 11 yards in 2010 after missing 2009 with a torn ACL.
The Vols have one tailback committed for their 2011 signing class - Tom Smith of Apopka, Fla.