In a projected development likely to delight plenty of Penn State football fans, cornerback Amani Oruwariye is designated as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round selection in a new CBS Sports mock draft.
The two-time All-Big Ten selection completed his collegiate career last week in a 27-24 Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky. Oruwariye spent five seasons with Penn State, emerging as a starting cornerback in 2018.
“Amani had an outstanding season. … Obviously, he helped his draft stock,” Nittany Lions cornerbacks coach Terry Smith said during Citrus Bowl prep.
Oruwariye, a 6-foot-1, 203-pound talent, appeared in 48 Penn State games after redshirting as a freshman. He totaled 107 tackles, 30 pass breakups and eight interceptions, and received a second-team all-conference nod last season without starting a single game.
Oruwariye earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2018, establishing career-best production in tackles (51) and pass breakups (12), while adding three interceptions and a forced fumble. He was recognized as the Nittany Lions’ Co-Defensive Player of the Year — along with defensive end Shareef Miller — during the team’s postseason awards banquet.
Along the way, his NFL draft stock has steadily climbed.
“Coming into the season, they were saying he was probably a late-round draft pick. I would imagine he’s moved up,” Smith said. “Some people have him going late in the first round or as late as the third round. He’s had a great season. He’s been a great leader, a great teammate in the locker room, he’s been a great guy for our room as cornerbacks. He’s worked really hard and he’s reaping the rewards of that hard work.”
The latest CBS mock draft, published Monday, places him with Pittsburgh at 20th overall. Among cornerback prospects, Oruwariye is behind only Greedy Williams (LSU; No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Byron Murphy (Washington; No. 17 to the Cleveland Browns).
“The Steelers have to upgrade the secondary because after Joe Haden there are a lot of questions,” writes CBS’ Ryan Wilson. “Adding Oruwariye, a physical, fluid cornerback who can cover, makes sense here. In 2018 he was one of college football’s best cornerbacks on first down, holding opponents to 27.6 completion percentage while forcing two interceptions and seven passes defended.”
If this early projection does come to fruition in April, it would result in a Penn State reunion.
Pittsburgh selected Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen with a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Fellow Steelers safety Malik Golden and tight end Jesse James also previously shared the Penn State roster with Oruwariye, who arrived on campus in 2014 as a member of James Franklin‘s first PSU recruiting class.
Running back Saquon Barkley, drafted second overall by the New York Giants in 2018, is the lone first-round pick out of Penn State since 2010, and no Nittany Lions defensive back has ever been selected during the first round.
“Obviously it would be a blessing for Amani and his family,” Smith said regarding Oruwariye’s first-round possibilities. “It would be a blessing for us as Penn State. We’re trying to build DB nation here. We’ve got seven or eight guys in the league right now that we’ve coached over the last five years. This thing is growing and growing fast. We’re trying to get the best guys in and develop those guys. Amani would be a huge step for the program.”
Oruwariye’s next opportunity to build his case for NFL scouts comes later this month. He plans to participate in the Senior Bowl, held Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.
“My approach to practice and games has been professional,” Oruwariye said while assessing his senior season. “(I’m) watching a lot more film and being very particular with my technique — every little movement. … Creating championship habits that will carry over to the NFL.”