David Ojabo, Wolverine

David Ojabo, Wolverine

July 3, 2018

Blairstown (NJ) Blair Academy defensive end David Ojabo committed to Michigan on Monday. He picked the Wolverines over offers from Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, and Texas A&M, among others.

Ojabo is a 6’4″, 233 lb. prospect. He claims a 4.75 forty and ran a 10.93 in the 100. As a junior in 2017, he posted 35 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

ESPN: 4-star, 80 grade, #37 DE
Rivals: 3-star, #41 SDE
247 Sports: 3-star, 87 grade, #36 SDE, #537 overall

Hit the jump for more on his recruitment.

Ojabo was born in Nigeria, where people don’t play American football. When he was about eight years old, he moved to Scotland, where people don’t play American football. Then he moved to New Jersey as a teenager, where people play American football. But not him – he played basketball after growing up as a soccer player. It wasn’t until his junior year when he finally took up the game of football, because he was 6’4″ and 233 lbs., which is power forward weight with shooting guard height – and neither of those positions plays on a soccer pitch. Michigan was one of those schools to throw its hat in the ring, and Ojabo committed after camping in Ann Arbor in June.

I mean this in the nicest way possible: Ojabo knows very little about the game of football. In some ways, that’s a good thing because he’s a blank canvas. Greg Mattison and Don Brown will have a chance to mold him into what kind of football player they want him to be. When I was watching Ojabo’s film for the first time shortly after he was offered, I was reminded of the story of Ezekiel Ansah, who walked on to BYU’s football team without having played the game before and made his mark on the kickoff team because basically your rule is “See ball, get ball.” Ojabo’s stance, pad level, hand placement, tackling, and other areas of technique are all subpar compared to other players who are comparably ranked.

What Ojabo does have is a very particular set of skills: He is skilled at being big and fast. He also takes good angles, because those are important in soccer and basketball, too.

Overall, Ojabo is a huge project. His technique is at a middle school level, but his athleticism is on par with some of the top defensive line recruits in the country. How quickly can Mattison and Brown help him bridge that gap? Those are two of the best defensive coaches in the country, so my guess is they’ll do it approximately as quickly as humanly possible. They took walk-on Ryan Glasgow and made him a 4th round pick, and they have performed other wondrous feats, too. These are very similar things to what I said when German-born Julius Welschof committed to Michigan in the 2018 class, too.

On a side note, Ojabo is not the only one at Blair Academy who looks to be brand new at playing football. I saw a lot of questionable football playing on those clips. I’m not sure about the pedigree of the general populace, but the other schools they play have produced a fair amount of talent, such as Peddie (Allan Walters, a QB who went to Vanderbilt), the Hun School (Anthony Lalota, DT, Michigan/Rutgers), and Lawrenceville (Grant Newsome, OT, Michigan). Blair itself produced Jayson Oweh (DE, Penn State) in the 2018 class. There’s athletic talent in that conference, but it’s not often you see so many guys who have no idea how to play.

This would be the first player to come from Blair Academy to Michigan. Some of Blair’s noteworthy alumni are . . . noteworthy. Like Tucker Max! See also: Dion Lewis, Luol Deng, Charlie Villanueva. There are a bunch of other famous people, too. It costs $60,000 a year to go there. Yikes.

Michigan now has five defensive linemen in the class, including Ojabo, Stephen Herron, Gabe Newburg, Chris Hinton, and Mazi Smith. Ojabo is listed as a strongside end, but I could see him growing into a defensive tackle someday. Smith is an interior guy all the way, and Herron/Newburg are outside guys, so Ojabo and Hinton are the two guys who could swing from the strong side to 3-tech (or offensive line in Hinton’s case).

TTB Rating: 77 (ratings explanation)


  1. Comments: 522
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Jul 03, 2018 at 7:09 AM

    This post gets me thinking about how coaches view the “investment horizon” for players. It looks like it’s an intuitive thing based on how long it’ll take to bring a raw recruit up to being productive, and how much upside there is. Ojabo must be one of those investments where Michigan — and others — thought it was worth the risk.

    That kind of risk/reward/effort thing seems to vary by position group. It seems coaches will take a gamble on a really raw recruit for the defensive line. Less so, it seems, for recruits clearly slated for the offensive line. (Onwenu was a project to start, but I think he was originally thought of a defensive line guy before moving over to offensive line.)

    If I’m correct in my sense that coaches are willing to take a leap on projects along the D-line … why is that? What is it about that position group that tells coaches they can afford to spend the scholarship and time molding a player there, but not at other positions? Is D-line where raw athleticism can pay dividends faster than elsewhere? Or is it related to the depth/rotation needs of the D-line? Or something else?

    I also wonder if Michigan tends to take more projects. As I sit here and type this, I can think of four — St. Juste, Welschof, Milton, and now Ojabo.

    • Comments: 71
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Jul 03, 2018 at 9:11 AM

      I think Michigan feels comfortable taking more investment type prospects because they are confident in their ability to coach them up and get them college ready. Just look at what Zordich has done with DBs, Mattison has done with DL, and various coaches have done at TE. On top of that, after the 2016-2017 classes were so big they felt comfortable with some guys who might take longer to see the field because the depth chart was full of guys with 2-3 more years of eligibility. And lastly, Michigan had a lot of negative press after a relatively bad 2017 season so it was an uphill battle with most of the guys who are college ready and tend to be higher ranked.

      Regarding project recruits by position, outside of the very few elite recruits, I’d say all OL recruits are projects to some extent. It’s such a technical position, usually requires real strength/weight gain and tends to be the hardest to evaluate, plus they rarely see the field before year 3. And Michigan has taken their fair share of projects like LTT, Beaty, Hayes, and Hudson. But I think DL recruits just get more coverage than OL recruits. Most fans really don’t care about the OL as long as it does it’s job, you want them to keep the pocket clean, open big running lanes, and then focus on the QB and RBs making plays. For DL, fans love to imagine the havoc those guys will generate, the sacks, TFLs, and batted balls that will ruin the opponents day. No one thinks about the DE who Ryan Hayes will kick out so that Milton has time to throw a bomb to score the winning touchdown.

  2. Comments: 313
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    Jul 03, 2018 at 11:07 AM

    His 40 is faster than 4.75. I read there were a couple mishaps when he ran it at that camp. With a laser timed 10.93 100m dash, you can bet this kid is hitting sub 4.6, probably closer to 4.5. I’m a sucker for athletic freaks, and this is one of them. If he can develop strength in his upper body, he’s going to be a future first round pick based on athletic potential alone. 10.9 at 240 lbs is elite.

    For some reference, Vernon Davis ran a 10.7 in high school listed at 220 lbs. Who knows if that’s even accurate. Ran a 4.38 40 yard dash at 250 lbs at the combine.

    As a football player right now, 77 is probably too high. But based on potential alone I’d slot the kid at 90. Very excited about this one.

  3. Comments: 295
    Joined: 12/19/2015
    Jul 03, 2018 at 1:24 PM

    I think JC is right about the rating. Based on film, he’s gotta be in the 60’s at best but he could reach the 90’s so a 77 overall seems fair.

    I don’t even know what to say after watching his film. Obviously, he’s a great athlete, however, I like players who at least play through high school. There’s 110 players on the field and only so many coaches. You’d almost have to give this guy 1-on-1 attention every practice to get him ready for his 3rd year at which time he may or may not make it onto the field. I’d rather hold the scholarship for someone else with slightly lower ceiling but higher floor. We’ve had a lot of good recruits lately.

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Jul 03, 2018 at 10:36 PM

      I think the fact that we’ve had a lot of good recruits makes taking someone like Ojabo more viable. While those top-level recruits are likely to be playing well as expected, you have a chance to develop a project for a few years before unleashing him.

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