River Rouge's Ruke Orhorhoro sees plenty of improvement at powerhouse Clemson

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ruke Orhorhoro is back on campus at Clemson, working hard in the weight room so he can get more snaps for the national runner-up Tigers this fall.

Orhorhoro, who was a member of The Detroit News Dream Team while playing at River Rouge, is proud of his improvement from a year ago when he started his college career early, graduating in December 2018 following his senior season.

Ruke Orhororo (33), a former River Rouge standout, had five tackles (1.5 for loss) in nine games as a freshman at national runner-up Clemson.

Orhorhoro returned home to Michigan when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in mid-March. He said by phone Monday afternoon that Clemson was able to get in 10 practices during the spring.

“... Almost got done,” said Orhorhoro of spring practice. “It helped me a lot, just seeing how far I’ve come along since my freshman year. I’m at a whole different place than I was last year, and it just shows my improvement not only physically, but mentally, just my understanding of the game and things like that.”

Orhorhoro was a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end when he arrived at Clemson. He got in on 84 snaps over nine games as a true freshman, making five tackles, including 1.5 for lost yardage.

“I’m a defensive tackle now, so I’ve moved inside,” said Orhorhoro, who is now 6-5 and 300 pounds. “I’ve gotten way bigger, way stronger, can bench 225 pounds 25 times.”

So, where does Orhorhoro see himself on the depth chart?

“I run with the 2s and the 1s, really depending,” Orhorhoro said. “I feel I’ve really improved on my block recognition, my knowledge for the game and knowing the backfield sets and learning down and distances and the percentages of what type of play they are going to run.”

Clemson is now the benchmark for college football supremacy, proven by its 69-5 record during the last five years, including national championship seasons in 2016 and 2018, and national runner-up spots in 2015 and this past season when it had its 29-game winning streak snapped by LSU in the title game, 42-25.

Clemson returns Heisman front-running quarterback Trevor Lawrence (3,665 yards, 36 touchdowns), a reason the Tigers are again the team to beat.

“We just keep doing what we’ve been doing for years, not changing nothing, winning has been the standard here and I don’t think it’s ever going to stop,” Orhorhoro said. “We’re just going to keep grinding. Some of the greatest competition is right in practice.

“I’m Ruke who went to River Rouge High School, and I’m trying to sack the Heisman Trophy quarterback candidate in practice. He (Lawrence) can’t do it by himself, but he has a great O-line in front of him and a great supporting cast around him.”

Sure, Clemson didn’t get its entire spring ball in, but Orhorhoro is happy that the majority of practices took place. He now is getting ready for camp, which hopefully takes place in August.

“I went back home for the months of March and April, now I’m back and we’ve been working out; it’s not mandatory or anything,” Orhorhoro said. “Everything is going good. Only 20 people can work out at a time (because of the pandemic). You’ve got to wear masks. You’ve got to wear gloves. There are so many rules and regulations. There’s only one entrance and exit for the building. They sanitize the building after every lift, and there’s 10 different groups, so whatever time you go you make sure you’re early because once you reach that capacity of 20 people they’re not going to let nobody else in.”

And, while multiple Clemson players have tested positive for COVID-19, Orhorhoro feels well and strong and continues on with his group of players.

“They just move them away and quarantine them for two weeks, bring them food and make sure they get vitamins," Orhorhoro said. They keep them away from everybody else.

“Everything is going good for me. I stay with the same guys, really. I work out with the same guys every day, hang out with the same guys. I really don’t go out. I stay in my dorm, the most I go out is when I go through the drive-through and get some wings.”

Orhorhoro said his parents recently went out to dinner for the first time in months while South Carolina remained pretty much the same throughout the past three-plus months as more than 120,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.

“It was a lot different than Michigan,” Orhorhoro said. “Up there everything was closed, couldn’t go to a restaurant when I was there. When I came back here it was like nothing ever happened, you could still go to a restaurant, still go to a movie theater. It was very surprising, everything is still open. It’s (South Carolina) kind of getting hit hard now, though.”

Orhorhoro hopes to one day find himself in a position of his cousin Michael Ojemudia (Farmington Hills Harrison), who was picked in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos after being a third-team All-Big Ten cornerback at Iowa.

Orhorhoro has another cousin playing for Notre Dame, Ovie Oghoufo (Farmington Hills Harrison), a backup defensive end to Daelin Hayes (Ann Arbor Skyline).