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Freshmen Thriving as Season Opener Approaches
David Oku

David Oku

Aug. 25, 2009

Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin walked off Haslam Field and into a throng of awaiting reporters following Tuesday's three-hour workout, the Vols' second-to-last full-speed practice before beginning their game week routine on Monday.

Kiffin's conversation with the media following practice was very much indicative of fall camp as a whole. The focus was on Tennessee's freshmen and how much impact they will have during the 2009 campaign.

Two Vols were singled out: Nu'Keese Richardson and David Oku.

"Nu'Keese had by far his best day since he has been here," Kiffin said. "He made a number of huge plays, probably had 250 yards receiving. That was great to see because of he'd gone through his ups and downs. It was great to see him make some big plays."

Richardson, from Pahokee, Fla., has worked out at wide receiver and also taken some snaps in a special package of plays. He figures to play a prominent role early in the season because of a depleted UT receiving corps. The Vols' top three returning pass-catchers will miss significant time with injuries.

Oku, from Midwest City, Okla., has been a model of versatility throughout camp, battling with senior Montario Hardesty, sophomore Tauren Poole and fellow newcomer Bryce Brown for carries at running back while also lining up as a wideout and even throwing a pass or two.

"He can play receiver; he can play running back; he can play quarterback," Kiffin said. "He's a great athlete. Things come easy to him.

"One of the best things to find with players is when it doesn't take them many reps to do something. We showed Dave a play today on film that Reggie (Bush) did. We took him out there and the first time he did it, he did it exactly right. Some guys are natural that way."

The 2009 Vols will most certainly have a youthful look as the number of true freshmen on the depth chart for the season opener could climb into double-digits. Kiffin's inaugural recruiting class ranked among the best in the nation, and the players responsible for that lofty ranking will be put to the test beginning in less than two weeks.

The Western Kentucky contest is slated for a 12:21 p.m. ET kickoff Sept. 5 at Neyland Stadium. The first 5,000 fans to enter through Gates 10 and 21 will receive a free schedule magnet, courtesy of Image Matters.

Television coverage for the game will be provided by the SEC Network, ESPN's new over-the-air syndication home for Southeastern Conference programming. Much like with the Raycom Sports broadcasts of years past, fans should check their local listings for the channel carrying the game.

 

 

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