When discussing the defensive line as a whole, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro can get lost in the mix.
Top-heavy names like Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis can demand a lot of pundit talk, but the linemen's competition hasn't done anything but help depth players like Orhorhoro. Teammate and head coach respect go a long way -- Orhorhoro has earned both since fall camp started.
"Most improved on defense?," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "You know, we've got so many veterans over there, I'd probably have to just say Ruke. But he's just missed a lot of time. He's a guy that, if I had to pick one guy that I think has got a chance to have a great season, id say Ruke.
"I think he's ready. ... Ruke has made big strides up front for us. Big strides."
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It speaks volumes of his capability to earn Swinney's level of praise after nearly an entire year battling with injuries, but the talent was flashed as a freshman. The Michigan signee appeared in nine games in 2019 (84 snaps, five tackles) and was one of many youth pieces to earn big playing time for defensive coordinator Brent Venables that season.
Orhorhoro played in only four games with 33 defensive snaps in 2020.
"Ruke has had a good few days, he's definitely made improvement," Venables said. "He was out a little bit this spring with COVID I believe."
Orhorhoro also went through knee surgery in September of 2020 but has been a full-go in fall camp. His 6-foot-4 frame stands out, especially next to shorter tackles like the 6-foot-2 Tyler Davis. Orhororo looks fluid in rip-throughs, quick in the feet during drills, and also received vocal support from Bryan Bresee during open practice periods.
"We have a lot of depth there (at defensive tackle)," Bresee said. "There's some really good players behind us -- with us. I don't see any issue there at all. ... You see Ruke, Darnell (Jefferies), Tre (Williams), ET (Etinosa Reuben), Payton (Page), all those guys are really good. (If) everyone keeps developing, we'll have all the depth that we need."
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