Amani Oruwariye isn’t overly worried about what’s written and covered by the Penn State media.
But, admittedly, he’s seen the attention those in the cornerback room have received over the offseason. The hype heaped on freshmen Lamont Wade and Tariq Castro-Fields hasn’t gone unnoticed, and neither has the publicity of starters Grant Haley and Christian Campbell.
Don’t get him wrong. Oruwariye is happy for his teammates.
But entering the 2017 season as an expected contributor, the corner feels overlooked.
“It’s just always how it’s been,” Oruwariye said on a Wednesday conference call. “Even if it’s not evident in the media and being talked about, I know what I’ve done and I’m ready to put it out there. ... I do think I’m going to open a lot of eyes this year with the plays that I make. It’s just a matter of time.”
Oruwariye enters the upcoming season as Penn State’s second-team field cornerback behind Haley, according to the Nittany Lions’ first official depth chart released on Tuesday. Campbell will start at boundary cornerback in the absence of John Reid, followed by Castro-Fields and Wade at No. 2 and 3, respectively.
Oruwariye has never started for the Nittany Lions, appearing in 11 games last year. But in limited reps, the former three-star Florida prospect showed his playmaking ability.
In the Nittany Lions’ 45-12 drubbing of Michigan State, Oruwariye helped Penn State capture the Big Ten East crown with seven tackles, including four solo stops — tied for most on the team.
In the season opener, Oruwariye jolted the Nittany Lions. Penn State barely led Kent State 16-13 at halftime, but early in the third quarter the corner used his 6-foot-1 frame to wedge a wideout out of the way, picked off Golden Flashes quarterback Mylik Mitchell and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
It was Penn State’s first pick-six since Haley scored against Temple in his 2014 freshman campaign.
“I think it was a big turning point in my career here,” Oruwariye said. “I think it opened their eyes and showed them that I can make plays not just in practice. I’m a playmaker. It was a great play, but it’s in the past. I want to build off that and move on this year and make more plays.”
James Franklin believes he’s capable of that, too.
Like Haley and Trace McSorley, Franklin was all over Oruwariye in the recruiting process. The cornerback originally committed to Vanderbilt in Oct. 2013, and when the coach accepted the job at Penn State a few months later, Oruwariye followed.
Franklin’s been a long believer in what the Florida native brings to Penn State’s secondary — height, length and physicality.
After Oruwariye got his feet wet the past couple of seasons, Franklin thinks he’s an underrated guy in the Nittany Lion defensive backfield.
“Amani’s probably a guy that doesn’t get talked about enough,” Franklin said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s been there and done that. He’s what everyone’s looking for at the corner position. He’s a guy with tremendous length and size. ... He’s an experienced, savvy corner.”
His teammates have seen plenty of that maturity throughout fall camp.
Senior linebacker Brandon Smith said he’s seen Oruwariye grow off the field, and tight end Jonathan Holland knows how difficult it is to face off one-on-one with the 205-pound corner.
“He uses his size and the length of his arms to his advantage,” Holland said. “He does a great job of coverage whether it’s against receivers, running backs or tight ends. He easily matches up with everyone. He’s ready to get back out there and do even better things this year.”
That’s the plan for Oruwariye.
The second-team corner — with a pick-six and season of ups-and-downs behind him — feels comfortable stepping up. He called himself a “field general,” and his athleticism can’t be ignored.
Even if Oruwariye isn’t atop the depth chart or getting the attention of Wade or Castro-Fields, he’s still pushing to make an impact in 2017.
“We love Amani,” Franklin said. “We think he’s going to play a lot of football for us.”