Oku Overdue, Charles Set

David Oku's long and winding recruiting road took a sharp and sudden detour recently when the nation's No. 9 running back transferred from Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma City, to Lincoln (Neb.) East High School in an effort to attain the extra credit hours he requires to qualify for admission to a major college this fall.

However he appears no closer to signing with a school and, in fact, is probably further away after adding Ole Miss as a team of interest to go with finalists Auburn, Syracuse and Tennessee. Of course, if he doesn't make the grade he needs it may all be academic. He could be a candidate for prep school or junior college either of which would preclude making a contribution this year and would require re-recruiting in a year or two.

As things presently stand Oku's recruiting saga is 14 months long and promising to stretch into spring, especially if an official visit to Oxford is in the offing.

To summarize: Oku originally committed to Tennessee last November, but took an official visit to Syracuse after former UT running backs coach Stan Drayton accepted a position on the staff there. After his visit to the Empire State Oku pulled his pledge to UT and was back in play. Then Trooper Taylor left Oklahoma State for a positiion on the staff at Auburn. The former Tennessee recruiting ace immediately took up his pursuit of the multitalented 5-foot-11, 185-pound Oku, who turns a 4.5 time in the 40 and gained over 5,802 yards and 68 TDs for his high school career.

Several times since, Oku has been rumored to have be ready to sign with Auburn and as having eliminated the Vols, both of which he has denied. Likewise the four-star tailback's future has been a subject of great interest on Syracuse recruiting forums.

If the Rebels expand Oku's finalists list to four all the dynamics change and the guesswork becomes more speculative. That situation could clear once No. 1 running back Bryce Brown inks with one of his finalists, but that recruiting process isn't exactly on a bullet train toward conclusion.

Still the longer the issue remains unresolved the better Tennessee's chances are likely to be since the Vols got off to a late start in their pursuit of Brown, and have used Oku's current state of dormancy as an opportunity to crawl back into contention.

The same could be said for No. 3 tight end prospect Orson Charles who is still considering USC, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. The opportunity for early playing time is particularly good for the 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect who could slot into UT's starting lineup as an H-back, tight end or slot receiver. His size, athleticism and 4.5 speed fits UT's need for a big target with the ability to pile up YAC (yards after catch) and move the sticks. Charles has the speed to exploit seams in coverage or get behind the linebacker and split the safeties.

Charles completed his visits last weekend with a trip to USC where he experienced the best of Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Malibu Beach and Hollywood wrapped up in exquisite southern California sunshine. He hung out with USC signee Matt Barkley the nation's No. 1 rated quarterback. He reportedly lobbied for Barkley's No. 7 jersey, however jersey number doesn't top his list of criteria for choosing a college.

"Which school I can step on the field and make an impact the fastest, and just a school that I am really comfortable with," Charles told Kevin Carden of SCPlaybook when asked what he was looking for in a college football program. "If I am having trouble with a class or a girl I want to be able to talk to the coaches."

Charles' plans call for the elimination of two contenders by Wednesday, Feb. 25, although that is still tentative. He has a scheduled Friday, March 6, date set for his signing ceremony at Plant High School in Tampa.

Charles had a stellar senior campaign in which he made 75 receptions for 1,440 yards and 24 touchdowns including three on fumble returns at defensive end or scores. He reportedly bench presses 320-pounds and squats 450. He is credited with a 35-inch vertical jump.

"I am just going to pray about it and talk with my family," he said. "What I am going to try to do is eliminate two teams by Wednesday, and then focus on the final two teams until next week."

For certain, signing the hardworking, high-character, unlimited potential prospect would be the answer to Lane Kiffin's pray.

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