Graduate transfer defensive end RJ Oben from Duke University, addresses the media February 9, 2024. (Photo: Joe Weiser)
Back in early December, All-American left tackle Joe Alt told Marcus Freeman that defensive end RJ Oben from Duke, was “probably the best one (he) faced last season”. That endorsement was good enough for Marcus Freeman who later said “I’m like, I’m good. That confirms what I saw on film.”
A few days later Oben committed to spend his graduate season in South Bend. He will bring career numbers that include (according to Pro Football Focus) 1470 snaps, 93 quarterback pressures ,14.5 TFL and 5 forced fumbles to a Notre Dame pass rush looking to reload for the 2024 season.
An NFL legacy, Oben’s father, Roman, played 12 seasons at left tackle for the Giants, Browns, Buccaneers and Chargers. And that blue blood background along with a Duke University degree in Economics already in his pocket are good indicators that Oben should fit right into the ND culture. Oben recently sat with members of the media and has the look of a polished, mature athlete ready to contribute to Al Golden’s 2024 defense. “The culture here is unmatched…and obviously being able to get a great education, a graduate degree would be amazing….going to Notre Dame afforded tremendous opportunities” he told the media.
Oben sees himself as a strong side defensive end, and perhaps in the mold of Jevonte Jean Baptiste. After four years at Ohio State, Baptiste was a grade transfer last year who went on to an outstanding season at the strong side position. In fact, he may have been the poster child that clinched Oben’s decision to come the South Bend, “I was in close contact with him (Baptiste)….and they were able to show me how they were able to develop him. They showed me the way he was when he got here verses where he got to.”
While there is no doubt that Oben has already accomplished a lot in his four seasons of college football, there is always room to improve and Oben knows what he will be working on, “Definitely working on being a more versatile pass rusher, different moves, not to be so predictable….just being a more dominant and physical player in the run game as well as being a threat on all sides and all downs.”
Furthering his education, and improving his game with an eye to the NFL isn’t all that is on Oben’s mind. “I’m coming here to win a National Championship as well…I’m real excited about this team, so I can’t wait to get started.”
If the Irish are to reach that lofty height in 2024, Oben will undoubtedly play a key role.