Five-star football recruit Vince Oghobaase made the unusual decision to sign with Duke over football powerhouses Oklahoma and Miami, among others. He graduated early from high school to take part in the Blue Devils' spring practices. Now, after knee surgery, Oghobaase is finally one step closer to his long-anticipated Blue Devil debut.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound defensive tackle stepped onto Duke's practice field last week for the first time this season. Expected to make a big impact as a freshman, Oghobaase has been conspicuously absent from the Duke depth chart so far this year.
"It feels great," Oghobaase said. "I get to sweat again, I get to be out here with my teammates, I get to go through a little bit of drills, but not everything, because I'm still kind of hurt. But it just feels good to be back out here."
Oghobaase is a welcome sight back on the practice field for the Duke coaching staff, which is coping with several other injuries along the defensive front.
"We're real excited," Roof said. "We knew we had something special after his first couple of practices last year. He's going to add something once he starts playing."
Roof has been taking extreme precaution with his prized recruit, cognizant of the risks that may come with rushing Oghobaase back from injury. In addition, the freshman must still work toward getting into game shape before he will be allowed onto the field.
"The biggest thing for him is we don't want to put him out there before he's ready," Roof said. "It's one thing to get on the treadmill or the stairmaster, but it's another thing to come out and play football."
Nevertheless, the 1-6 Blue Devils could certainly use Oghobaase. Fellow freshmen Ayanga Okpokowuruk and Ryan Radloff, both expected to provide Duke with quality depth along the defensive line, are already out for the rest of the season. Starting defensive tackle Brian Sallee sat out last week's contest, and Casey Camero and Phillip Alexander are also fighting injuries. Yet neither Oghobaase nor Roof know when, or if, he will play his first snaps as a Blue Devil.
"I really can't give you a timetable-it's one of those things that's got to heal before I can get out there," Oghobaase said. "I've never had to get surgery ever before in my sports career."
With just four games remaining in the season and the Blue Devils already eliminated from bowl contention, that time may come next season. The Blue Devils may consider redshirting Oghobaase in order to allow him to gain a fifth year of eligibility. Both Roof and Oghobaase declined to comment on the probability of that occurrence, however.
"We haven't made that [decision] yet." Roof said.
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