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5 Qs on Amani Oruwariye: Can the Lions 5th-round pick live up to the hype?

Getting to know the Lions’ newest corner.

Appalachian State v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Lions really needed a corner opposite Darius Slay going into the offseason. In fact, they needed help all over the secondary after losing Glover Quin and letting Nevin Lawson walk. After the Lions signed Justin Coleman and slew of depth corners, it appeared the Lions were serious about fixing their defensive back issues.

Then came the draft. Lions fans chanted from the top of mountains and climbed buildings with flags that read “please draft Amani Oruwariye.” Amani was one of the highest players on Lions fans’ draft wish list after the first round came and went. By the beginning of Day 3, it looked like it wasn’t happening. Then in the fifth round Lem Barney went out and called every syllable of Amani’s name and Lions fans erupted with joy.

This was a steal for the Lions. Amani was slated to go in the second round and somehow fell to the fifth. One has to wonder if Oruwariye is ready to be a starter this early in his career.

Our friend Collin Wieder from Victory Bell Rings certainly believes Amani could live up to his hype. We got in touch with him to learn more about the Lions’ new corner. Here’s what he had to say.

POD: What are your overall thoughts on Oruwariye’s time at Penn State?

VBR: “There is a key group of guys that led Penn State football’s resurgence starting in 2016, and Amani Oruwariye was definitely one. To me, his career shows a player that made significant progression in each of his five seasons - a major plus for Detroit fans. Oruwariye continued to rise up and advance his game to ultimately become the top corner in a secondary that’s been loaded with NFL talent in recent years.

After redshirting in 2014 and seeing minimal playing time in 2015, he got on the field for Penn State’s Big Ten Championship campaign in 2016. He added depth and another corner to the Nittany Lions’ defense. Oruwariye recorded 23 tackles and a pick six versus Kent State to round out a solid sophomore campaign. He really broke out in his junior season. With senior starting cornerbacks Christian Campbell and Grant Haley already in place, Oruwariye took the third corner spot and still became a household name. The junior corner always seemed to come up with high-pointing, dramatic, 50-50 ball interceptions to flip momentum. He didn’t start a game in 2017 but led the defense in interceptions with four, logged 28 total tackles and seven pass deflections.

Oruwariye put the Big Ten on notice in 2017 but proved he could handle the top corner spot in 2018. Going up against most teams’ top receiver, he led a pass defense that surrendered only 181.5 yards per game. As a senior, he tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, rolled up 50 tackles and a team-leading 11 pass deflections. He also displayed a clutch gene in the Appalachian State game, picking off a pass in OT to seal up Penn State’s season-opening win. I was impressed with his upward trajectory throughout his career. He never stopped rising and found a way to contribute more and more, showing an active player that wants to improve.”

POD: What are his strengths?

VBR: “Oruwariye brings physicality to a usually finesse-driven position. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he’s going to fight for the football when it goes to the air and battle with No. 1 receivers outside the numbers. His length means he’s rarely beat on a play, EX: beat on a play versus Kent State, manage to recover and swat ball away on would-be touchdown. Oruwariye doesn’t make business decisions either in the run game. He’s going to make tackles in space and attack runners out in the open. He’s also a former three-star recruit that had to work his way up the depth chart, so for me that shows he can continue to bloom as his career progresses. Even at a bigger size, he’s still got plenty of top-end speed as noted by his 4.47, 40-yard dash.”

POD: What are his weaknesses?

VBR: “I think the biggest weakness a lot of people point to is his lone year as a starter. Technically, he did start as the third corner in 2017, but he only took the full-time starting job in one season. It’s a weakness that, in my opinion, is remedied with his tremendous production. Over his final two seasons, he picked off a combined seven passes and deflected 18. It’s hard to argue with those numbers. But, I can see how teams faulted him for only starting one season.”

POD: Why do you think Amani fell all the way down to the fifth after many thought he’d go as early as the second round?

VBR: “Similar to the above weakness, I think that’s why he fell. Some publications had him listed as a day two pick in the third round. But the one-year wonder deal can scare teams away and that’s the biggest reason I can think of.”

POD: Amani was a player that many Lions fans wanted badly. Can he live up to their expectations?

VBR: “I believe he can live up to the expectations in Detroit. He exceeded expectations as an underrated player at Penn State. Each year after his sophomore season, he kept climbing the ladder to prove he belonged at the next level. Oruwariye has a blend of speed and power that few possess at the corner spot.”