Michigan football: Wolverines edge rusher David 'King' Ojabo is royalty in Ann Arbor
Around the country, he’s known as half of the best pass-rushing tandem in college football. At Michigan, he’s become known as “King Ojabo” — a nickname given to him by Wolverines’ fans. Raised in Scotland by way of Nigeria, David Ojabo has catapulted into the national spotlight and become an instant legend in Ann Arbor.
Not only is he one-half of a duo; he’s also a force on his own. He’ll be a key component when the No. 2 Wolverines face No. 3 Georgia during the 2021 Capital One Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.
Projected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, Ojabo has gone from a depth player — kind of just hanging out in the shadows, waiting for his turn — to a real-deal superstar and major Sunday prospect. What a launch into orbit for the 6-5, 250-pound junior. One year ago, he finished with just 1 tackle in 1 appearance vs. Indiana. Now, he’s considered to be elite at his position, finishing the season with All-America honors and a Big Ten title.
Oh, and don’t forget that he didn’t even pick up football until late in high school.
That part is important to note, because Ojabo — who didn’t grow up around the game — isn’t anywhere near his peak level. And that’s saying a lot, considering how Michigan has developed the 21-year-old through just 14 games. He’s a diamond in the rough, no doubt about that.
On draft day, there will be an excited team calling for Ojabo, who has 11 sacks through 13 games this year — 1 shy of the former school record, a mark now belonging to Aidan Hutchinson (14), the other half of Michigan’s incredible edge-rushing presence.
Good luck handling Ojabo
When Hutchinson was doubled, which was all the time, that freed up Ojabo to do what he does best: Get at the QB and disrupt anything happening in the backfield. Look at the Ohio State film, for example. His late-game sack on Buckeyes QB CJ Stroud was one of the daggers, one of the crushing blows, that deflated the Buckeyes.
He’s a match-up nightmare.
He runs a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and has incredible upper-body strength. Well, lower-body too. He’s difficult for anyone to handle. NFL tackles will certainly have their hands full with Ojabo, who forced a UM single-season record 5 fumbles this past fall. Once he penetrates into the backfield, it’s basically “play over” — because there’s a good chance that he’ll end up making a tackle or forcing a turnover.
Best-case scenario for opposition: Don’t let Ojabo get past the first line of defense.
Considering that he’s worked out against the best offensive line in the nation during practice and played against the likes of OSU and Michigan State, Ojabo already has an outstanding resume against Sunday-level guards, centers and tackles.
During 2021, Ojabo had 3 games with 2 or more sacks, highlighted by 2.5 vs. Wisconsin, 2 vs. Michigan State and 2 vs. Penn State. Those were all turning-point games for the Wolverines, who heavily relied on their defense during their 11-1 regular season.
Third-down situations are always critical, and Ojabo was one of the best in the country when it came to stifling drives.
Highest pass-rush grade on third down in the Big Ten
1️⃣ Aidan Hutchinson: 91.4
2️⃣ David Ojabo: 91.0 pic.twitter.com/CUdwr3JDPa
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 21, 2021
Coming out of high school in Blairstown, N.J., Ojabo was already considered to have immense raw talent. He needed to improve his technique — he played “too high” and needed to get lower, per analysts — but was already touted for speed burst, strength and knowledge (despite only being introduced to football in 2017). He’s an academic All-American, so he’s pretty sharp picking up new concepts and ideas on and off the field.
Entering Michigan, he was considered a possible second- or third-round pick, depending on development and team needs in that particular draft. Today, he’s widely considered as a top-15 pick, if not higher, entering the 2022 NFL Draft. He still has another year of eligibility, but it’s safe to say that he’ll be gone after Michigan concludes its run to the national championship.
If so, he’ll be remembered for one of the greatest individual seasons by any Michigan player during the Harbaugh era — if not in the program’s entire history. Ojabo is proof positive of Harbaugh’s staff molding and developing players. Ojabo is easily one of the best pick-ups, recruiting-wise, that Harbaugh has ever had during his coaching career.
It may have only been for one season, but Ojabo was thoroughly impressive and deserves to be recognized for putting together a legendary season. Without Ojabo, Michigan’s defense probably wouldn’t have been as intimidating. Maybe Hutchinson doesn’t break the sack record? Maybe Hutchinson doesn’t have the year he had, in general?
King Ojabo awaits his throne in the NFL, but he’s already royalty in Ann Arbor.