CLEMSON — Ruke Orhorhoro’s development hasn’t gone as planned.
The Clemson defensive tackle played 84 snaps his freshman season and entered 2020 as Tyler Davis’ backup. But in the season opener against Wake Forest, he suffered a meniscus injury that sidelined him for most of the season.
Orhorhoro only started playing football in 2017; he spent the first eight years of his life in Lagos, Nigeria. With a 6-foot-4, 270-plus frame, his potential jumped out to Brent Venables on film. The Clemson defensive coordinator connected with the Michigan product through Twitter, and after receiving an offer and visiting Clemson, Orhorhoro committed in June 2018. The signing earned the Tigers their first commitment from the Great Lake State in 44 years.
But without the years of football experience, getting in reps on the field and in the weight room has been important for Orhorhoro. Missing most of last season didn’t help.
In Saturday’s Orange vs. White spring game, Orhorhoro finished with two sacks, showing why Venables was high on the three-star prospect nearly three years ago.
“My main goal is to stay healthy and get healthy,” Orhorhoro said of his summer goals. “Just grow my knowledge of the game; step up into that leadership role and be able to help out the young guys with whatever they need. Be out there for my teammates. Be a team player. Anything I can do to help the team, that’s what I need to do better.”
His performance stood out enough for Dabo Swinney to mention it in his opening statement after the spring game, calling him “dominant.” So much of Clemson’s defensive line room is established, but the Tigers will certainly take the extra depth. Davis had a strong sophomore season and Bryan Bresee burst into the spotlight, earning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Tré Williams took a medical redshirt his freshman season but had a sack in the spring game.
What Orhorhoro provides is another option, which is crucial for a defensive line that is trying to improve on its total defense ranking of 15th.
“When the ones are out there or the twos are out there, there’s no drop off,” he said. “Getting after the quarterback and doing what we’re supposed to do. It’s just great. A real talented room, a very competitive room. Competition always makes the room better.”
“I do feel we have the potential to be a very dominant group and make our statement. A lot of guys battling a lot of things from injuries, to not getting as much playing time and stuff like that. I feel like the ceiling in this room is really high, and if we just keep grinding and putting in the work, we’ll be able to be dominant. ”
If Orhorhoro can stay healthy and make up the lost developmental time, he can help Clemson improve on its total defense ranking in the fall.