Tailback Tauren Poole has clearly established himself as the number one running back heading into fall camp, but Derek Dooley is looking for his counterpart.
Dooley’s big question is who is ready to step in behind Poole?
“I have always said you need two starters,” Dooley said. “You need to start with two ones. I believe in the two-back system.”
While some Volunteer fans may see a variety of talent in the running back stable, Dooley wants versatile backs.
“I prefer the multipurpose back,” he said. “The prototype back is about 5’10” to 6’ tall and a good 200 to 215 pounds. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good backs around 195 or 200.”
Dooley said he would not place labels on his running backs, such as shifty and power. He doesn’t want to pigeonhole his players just yet.
“I think it is a little early to put labels on them,” Dooley said. “When they get in that specialty role that is what they become.”
David Oku said he is excited about his role as a backup to senior Tauren Poole. He even pointed to other SEC schools’ backups as success cases.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a backup, look at Trent Richardson (Alabama),” Oku said. “You have Mark Ingram that won the Heisman, but Trent Richardson did a real good job, too.”
Oku will be happy no matter what his role is with the Tennessee offense, even if that means catching the ball out of the backfield on a regular basis.
“It probably will and I will be happy with that,” Oku said. “I have no problem doing that. It’s a good role. I am happy with my role.”
Oku said patience is the key when looking for a spot on the team. While he might not be taking on a starting role at running back, he is making up ground in other areas.
“You have to be patient with the thing that you do,” Oku said. “Sometimes you have to accept your role and do that. I am backing up Tauren, but at the same time I am doing kick return, too.”
Oku practiced with the veterans Thursday after participating in rookie practice on Wednesday evening because of his summer class schedule. Oku welcomed the fast pace of Thursday’s session after a more methodical approach on Wednesday.
“It was good, but the pace was super slow,” Oku said. “I wasn’t used to it. It was good though; a lot of them did real good.”
Oku was impressed with the big boys among the newcomers on Wednesday night.
“The offensive and defensive line impressed me,” Oku said. “I really don’t know all the names, I am still kind of lost, but a lot of them did.”