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    NFL Draft: Oluwole Betiku Jr. is finally living up to the hype

    After failing to register a single sack in three years at USC, this former 5-star recruit has dominated this season, and will hear his name called in April because of it.

    Born and raised in Nigeria, Oluwole Betiku didn’t grow up with the dream of being a professional football player like most of us. However, unlike most of us, he’s going to be. From workout videos as a young teenager in Nigeria, to hip surgery and graduation at USC, to a record-setting year at Illinois, Betiku is one of the most intriguing stories I’ve ever come across.

    A dominant start to the college football season has gotten my attention, as Betiku is here to remind us why he was once one of the nation’s top recruits. The Big Ten is already filled with excellent EDGE defenders, and Betiku just continues to expand the list of pass rushers.

    This is Oluwole Betiku. The person, the player, and the NFL Draft prospect.

    The Person

    Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Betiku doesn’t have the most common of NFL Draft backstories. He first gained attention from high schools in the states by attending a workout camp and posting videos of his workouts online.  After getting in touch with a number of high school coaches, he continuously updated them on his workouts and his body. As a sophomore, he moved to the United States but did not play football.

    The following year, he attended Serra High School in California, and after two dominant seasons, he was dubbed a 5-star prospect and the number two overall recruit in the state of California. Betiku chose to graduate a semester early and attend USC, where he would major in International Relations. After three years at USC, Betiku graduated and transferred to Illinois, where he was granted immediate eligibility and is now currently working on his Master’s degree.

    The Player

    As a true freshman, Betiku was a rotational player on the defensive line. He saw time in only five games but failed to make much of an impact. As a sophomore, he saw more playing time, but never cracked the starting roster. He played in 9 games but only registered 2 tackles and 0 sacks. His season ended with a hip injury, and offseason surgery kept him off the field for the entirety of the next season. Betiku then chose to transfer to Illinois to play for head coach Lovie Smith. Now part of the Big 10 conference, Betiku would have two years of remaining eligibility before he was required to declare for the NFL Draft. 

    In his first season with the Fighting Illini, Betiku has been nothing short of phenomenal. Through his first two games, he registered 5.0 sacks. That’s 5.0 more than he had in two years at USC. He’s since added 2.0 more for a total of 7.0 on the season. Illinois, as a team, has already surpassed last year’s totals for sacks and tackles for loss, thanks largely in part to the addition of Betiku. Consistent as both a run defender and pass rusher, Betiku has been a difference-maker for the Illinois defense.

    Related: Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State’s dominant new CB1

    The NFL Draft Prospect

    Betiku was a 5-star prospect for a reason. He’s an impressive mix of size and athletic ability. He’s strong at the point of attack and has some flexibility and bend to his game. He’s well-coached and has a nice array of pass rush moves he uses to get after opposing passers. While his athletic ability seems acceptable on tape, I am concerned he’s going to test poorly. How he does in Indianapolis will be crucial for his NFL Draft stock.

    While he has some tools that are inspiring, I don’t believe Betiku has a specific skill that obliviously translates to the next level. He doesn’t possess dominant speed, length, or bend, nor does he have the pure power to dominate NFL tackles consistently. Betiku is likely a rotational defensive end at the next level, but that’s a lot better than what we thought he was three months ago. 

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