June 22, 2008

Oku roller coaster not slowing down

It is fitting that David Oku spends his summer working at an amusement park. Like the roller coasters at Frontier City where Oku works outside his native Oklahoma City, the explosive 5-foot-10, 186-pound tailback leaves defenders and onlookers breathless.

Oku, who rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons at Midwest City's Carl Albert High School, also leaves no doubt where his summer priorities rest.

"My recruitment really ain't doing nothing right now," said the personable tailback after a full shift at the park. "I really am not thinking about schools right now. Basically, the college stuff isn't what's important to me right now. I'm working hard and running and lifting weights -- it's an everyday routine, but I'm not talking to any coaches right now and probably won't until August or September."

Don't mistake Oku's admittedly "laid-back" approach as that of a player who isn't motivated or grounded. The dynamic runner works out most mornings and evenings with strength and speed training. Additionally, Oku works exhaustive hours at the amusement park where temperatures routinely hover, suffocating so, in the mid-90s.

"It's cool," Oku said of his summer employment. "When it's hot, that's the worst time about it. But it definitely beats working at a fast food restaurant everyday. I just operate games, try to get people to come play games. … I work doubles every day that I work, nothing less. I worked 70 hours the first week, first week and three days."

Focusing on improving his elusiveness and filling out his broad frame, Oku hears whispers about his height, but he isn't worried. He's grown a couple inches over the last year-plus and expects to be 5-11, perhaps a touch taller, by the end of his senior campaign. Football occupies an important part of his life, but football doesn't define his existence.

"It's just me. I'm really not worried about it," Oku said. "I'm not saying forget about it and all that, but I have other concerns. I also have other things to think over other than that, other things to worry about."

Though Oku doesn't dwell on the recruiting process, he is aware that Tennessee recently added a commitment from heralded Tampa, Fla., prospect Jarvis Giles.

"That ain't got nothing to do with me," Oku said of Giles' verbal commitment made public on June 13. "If another player committed, he committed. Competition don't scare me. He committed, that's good for him. He found his right school. Somebody else committed ain't going to scare me away. Even if I don't go to Tennessee, I'm happy for him and happy for the program. But to me, football is not a big concern. I get on Rivals to check up and see who's going where. But I probably just look at it five minutes and shut it down. Somebody got a commitment? That's good. They picked up a running back. I still got interest there at Tennessee, and my interest is still going be there."

A factor in Oku's interest in the Vols remains his positive relationship with Tennessee defensive assistant Steve Caldwell. The manner in which the veteran Caldwell handles Oku's recruitment continues to impress the tailback Rivals.com considers the nation's No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2009 class.

"Coach Caldwell is one of the best people, and that's hands down," Oku said. "He ain't never talked to me about committing, never pressured me. Never tried to sway me into doing something. He told me he wanted to try to get me down there for camp and see the place. Even when I went down to Tennessee in April, he didn't even say anything to me except to enjoy myself, enjoy the Orange and White game. He's a laid-back person. That's why coach Caldwell gets a lot of commitments, because of his approach."

Oku's approach will remain examining the small group of schools still measuring on his radar. He intends to take each of his five official visits and already knows when he'll be in Knoxville.

"I will be there for sure on an official. I got my mind made up about that," Oku said. "The Florida game. I don't think it should be a problem for that game. There's no other game I really want to go to besides that game."

And Oku's other expected stops?

"Right now, when I give a little thought about the whole college stuff, I'm looking at all the schools and what games I want to go to. Five schools I got now are the only five I got for sure," he said. "Right now, I'm going to Tennessee-Florida, Florida State-Clemson, Nebraska-Virginia Tech, Illinois-Ohio State and a game at Michigan."

It's the Oku recruiting roller coaster, and it's excitement promises to stretch through the fall.

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