published Friday, March 6th, 2009

Tennessee Volunteers sign running back Oku

by Wes Rucker

KNOXVILLE — David Oku’s wild recruiting ride came full circle Thursday night. Oku, one of the nation’s top senior football prospects, signed with the University of Tennessee.

Oku — the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back and No. 97 overall prospect, according to — told the Web site that he signed and sent his national letter of intent to new UT coach Lane Kiffin.

Oku and UT officials didn’t immediately answer messages left Thursday night, but the player told Rivals’ Jeremy Crabtree that he signed with the Vols.

“I felt like I had to stick with my word,” Oku told Crabtree. “I really feel like the offense is going to be a good fit for me, and the coaches also made me feel really comfortable.

“Sometimes you know how you get cold feet, and that’s kind of what happened here. ... But I’m done now. All the worries are gone. I’m excited to be a Vol.”

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Oku recently moved to Lincoln, Neb., from Midwest City, Okla., where he starred for Carl Albert High School. He said last month that he moved to focus on academics, but it’s unclear whether such a late transfer will damage his chances to qualify and get through the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Oku committed to UT in October, but he opened his recruitment after Phillip Fulmer’s dismissal as coach and visited Auburn, Nebraska and Syracuse, where two former Volunteers assistants landed after the coaching change.

UT, Georgia and Southern California are finalists for Tampa wide receiver/tight end Orson Charles, Rivals’ No. 62 overall prospect, who will announce his choice this afternoon.

Kansas running back Bryce Brown, the nation’s No. 1 overall senior prospect according to many recruiting services, visited UT in February and said he’s still strongly considering the Vols, Miami, Oregon and LSU. He is scheduled to announced his choice next Thursday.

about Wes Rucker...

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