David Oku has to open eyes

Tennessee's kick return game has been less than impressive in the team's opening three games. David Oku has to change his mindset and his eye control in order to be successful going forward. Go "Inside" for Derek Dooley and Oku's take on the situation.

Derek Dooley and Tennessee just can't seem to break the big one on kickoff returns. With average starting field position just outside the 25-yard line something has to give.

Dooley said returner David Oku must change something and change it fast in order to hold down the job as the starting return man.

"I have seen nothing from him – other than an inability to make yards," Dooley said. "I don't think he is running with any conviction. I think he runs tippy-toeing and searching."

Oku has been noticeably hesitant fielding kickoffs, something that he acknowledged.

"I am really frustrated in the individual part of it, especially hitting the hole and hitting it with conviction," Oku said following Monday's practice.

"I am looking through a straw. It falls on me. I take the blame completely."

Dooley believes Oku's struggles could be caused by several factors, but it all boils down to one thing - trust, and Oku doesn't seem to have it.

"I think it is probably a lack of trust," Dooley said. "At returner you have to commit and you can't blink. You have to go, press the hole and hit the crease. If you are a little bit hesitant at all the door shuts."

Field position hasn't been a bright spot for the Volunteers though their first three games. Dooley said there have been a lot of yards left on the table.

"There have been a lot of returns out there with a lot of air that we aren't taking advantage of," he said.

Oku's focus will shift to improving his skills throughout preparation this week. And the young player knows that if he doesn't improve his spot will be stolen away in a hurry.

"I can't let coach Dooley down, he really does have faith in me, but it can't go on to much longer, if it does I will get snatched off (the field) real quick," Oku said.

"I am going to work on it all week. Coach Dooley was telling me he has been disappointed and I am disappointed in myself."

Look for Oku to be wide-eyed heading into Saturday's game with UAB and not in a bad way.

"You have to change your mindset and open your eyes," Oku said. "I am trying not to over-analyze everything."

Oku, Dooley and the Vols will return to practice Tuesday afternoon at Haslam Field.

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