When it comes to talking with the media, few players are more entertaining than Tennessee sophomore tailback David Oku. He kept reporters smiling as he fielded questions after Thursday’s practice about the competition for starting at tailback, special teams and, yes, even his weight.
Whoever starts at tailback for the Vols in 2010 has tall task of replacing departed senior Montario Hardesty, who was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He ran for more than 1,400 yards and had 13 rushing touchdowns to go along with a pair of receiving touchdowns.
This season, Oku is squarely in the hunt for increased playing time at tailback alongside junior Tauren Poole, who was listed as the probable starter out of spring camp. Sophomore Toney Williams and freshman Rajion Neal have also seen action in the backfield during scrimmages.
“It’s just an everyday process,” Oku said of the tailbacks’ work during fall camp. “You just have to keep going through it, making everybody better.”
Oku and Poole combined for just under 200 yards rushing last season, but both have demonstrated the ability to gain ground and break away for the end zone in the first two fall scrimmages. As a freshman, Oku primarily served as kick return specialist for the Vols, averaging 26.2 yards per return.
Weight could spell the difference for Oku this season. The 5-foot-10 tailback said he has gained approximately 20 pounds of muscle since last year and listed his new weight at 198 pounds.
“I feel like Jerome Bettis sometimes, you know,” said Oku, jokingly comparing his new build to the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers running back.
Of course, Oku still has a ways to catch up to Bettis in the weight division. The 5-11 bruising back nicknamed “The Bus” checked in at 250 lbs.
VOLS BACK AT PRACTICE
After taking Wednesday off for the first day of fall classes, the Vols were back at Haslam Field in full pads for practice Thursday.
With school back in full swing, the Vols are back to practicing primarily in the afternoons. Their third scrimmage of fall camp is scheduled for Saturday.
Tickets for the 2010 football season are available for all seven home games in some form or fashion.
This year’s schedule features four home dates in September, beginning with UT Martin on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. That game is a VideoSeat Pay-Per-View telecast.
Tickets for the UT Martin contest are available for $40 and can be purchased via UTtix.com, over the phone at 865/656-1200 or 800/332-VOLS (8657), or at the ticket counter. Because of construction at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Athletics Department Ticket Office is temporarily located on the northwest concourse level of the arena directly above the old ticket office location. Office hours Monday through Friday are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time.
Other games on this year’s slate are Oregon on Sept. 11, Florida on Sept. 18, UAB on Sept. 25, Alabama on Oct. 23, Mississippi for Homecoming on Nov. 13 and Kentucky on Nov. 27. Prices are $60 each for Oregon and Ole Miss, $50 for Kentucky and $40 for UAB.
Single seats with no adjacent seating are all that remain for the Florida and Alabama contests, and those tickets cost $70.