New Disruptive Force on Falcons DL? Meet Ruke Orhorhoro

The Atlanta Falcons expect former Clemson Tigers standout Ruke Orhorhoro to be a force in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons second-round pick from Clemson, Ruke Orhorhoro
Atlanta Falcons second-round pick from Clemson, Ruke Orhorhoro / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons will open training camp at the IBM Performance Field in a few weeks, officially kicking off the first season under new coach Raheem Morris. There are a few new faces on the defensive side of the football, including the team’s 2024 second-round draft pick from Clemson University, Ruke Orhorhoro.

It should also be noted that general manager Terry Fontenot traded up in the second round to get the Clemson standout. He sent the Arizona Cardinals pick No. 43 and pick No. 79 (from the Jaguars) in exchange for picks 35 and 186. The question is, what did Atlanta’s scouting department see in Orhorhoro?

Orhorhoro’s Background

The 6'4 and 294-pound defensive tackle played high school football in the opposite climate of Clemson, S.C. As a resident of Michigan, Orhorhoro was the first signee of Clemson from the state of Michigan since 1975. 

The Nigerian-born native was ranked as the 18th-best overall player in Michigan by 247Sports. However, he was initially a basketball player who averaged a double-double in high school until he walked onto the River Rouge High School football team as a junior.

He played as a defensive end in his junior and senior seasons and amassed 13 sacks in his final year of high school. While he received offers from Michigan and Michigan State, he elected to follow the recruiting trail of then-defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

In five years at Clemson, he started 30 games, all of which occurred in his final three years of eligibility. As a run defender, he was a force in the middle of the Tigers’ defensive front, with 25.5 career tackles for loss. More importantly, he had 12-career sacks – adding to his total each year while earning third-team ACC honors in his final two seasons as a Tiger. 

Head coach Dabo Swinney believes Ruke is a unique player with a great story.

"Watching him develop at Clemson every single year, to me, Ruke is a great example to a lot of kids in today’s world that if you’ll just stay and put the work in, if you’ve got the talent then you will develop," Swinney said of Orhorhoro after the Falcons picked him.

"He’s a guy that redshirted, didn’t play much as a redshirt freshman, was a rotational guy as a sophomore, and then his redshirt junior and senior years, he became a starter and now he’s a high draft pick. He’s just kept his head down, stayed the course, continued to work, and he has really, really developed into a great football player. But, again, his best football is still in front of him and that’s what everyone is excited about. He’s a guy I think will make an impact early on as a rookie.”

As Swinney stated, one of Clemson’s vocal leaders can make an impact for the Atlanta Falcons in 2024. 

What to expect in Ruke’s rookie season?

With All-Pro/Pro Bowl caliber defensive tackle Grady Jarrett returning after a season-ending injury in 2023 and David Onyemata coming off one of his best seasons, Orhorhoro will have the perfect mentors in his first season. Jarrett like Orhorhoro, went to Clemson.

"I'm just excited to learn from a guy that's been in the league for 10 years, I’m real eager," Orhorhoro said.

From a numbers standpoint, it’s hard to see big ones, especially considering he will likely be relegated to a backup role early on. As the season progresses, look for him to earn more reps, especially if he proves to be as disruptive in the NFL as he was in college.

However, should he display consistent ability as a pass rusher, he will earn more reps sooner rather than later. Regardless, his demeanor and personality will also go a long way in Jimmy Lake’s defense. A former leader as a Tiger has the potential to be a voice down the road for Atlanta – this is the season to establish roots and learn from one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league.

CJ Errickson