Overall, Derek Dooley enjoyed a successful first year at the Tennessee helm, salvaging a recruiting class that nearly came apart at the seams following Lane Kiffin's 11th-hour departure and dragging a Volunteer team with all kinds of depth chart issues and off-field squabbles to a bowl game.
But for all his accomplishments, no one will claim Dooley excelled in the area of getting some of Kiffin's highest-profile recruits to buy in. Neither five-star tailback Bryce Brown nor freshman All-American Aaron Douglas ever played a down under Dooley, and as of today four-star tailback/kick returner David Oku has also departed the Volunteer program .
The loss won't be a substantial blow to Tennessee's productivity -- Oku was not a major contributor this season, carrying only 42 times for 174 yards and returning 16 kickoffs for less than 20 yards a return -- but it drives home the fact that Dooley is more than willing to reshape the program with his own players and in his own image. The writing may have been on the wall for Oku, playing-time-wise, when Dooley said this to the media last September, just before Oku was stripped of his return duties:
You mentioned kickoff return. Can you talk about what you've seen from David Oku from that standpoint in the first three games?In a word: ouch. That level of abrasiveness won't win Dooley any Mr. Congeniality contests -- and it might have helped cost him whatever modicum of depth at running back and returner Oku represented -- but as long as the Volunteers continue moving forward, no one's going to care.
"I've see nothing from him other than an inability to make yards. I don't think he's running with any conviction, and I've told him that. I think he runs tippy-toeing and searching."
HT on Dooley quote: @HABOTN .