2016 Notre Dame DE target Oluwole Betiku developing at a fast pace

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Oluwole Betiku didn’t know much about football, but he listened to the people telling him he could be good at it.

Now, after his first season of playing the sport, college coaches are telling Betiku the same thing in the form of scholarship offers. On Dec. 1, Notre Dame added its name to the list of suitors for the junior defensive end at Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra.

The accelerated process started for Betiku as a 15-year-old in Nigeria. Ricardo Dickerson, a former running back at the University of Maryland, first discovered Betiku at a summer camp and quickly envisioned a football future for him. But in order to make that happen, Betiku would have to leave his family in Africa and come to the United States.

That’s where LaVar Arrington, a former NFL and Penn State linebacker, came into the picture. Arrington became Betiku’s legal guardian when he moved to the Baltimore area. Betiku enrolled as a sophomore at Bishop McNamara High School but didn’t play as he started to learn the game.

When Arrington moved to the Los Angeles area this past summer, Betiku came with and joined the powerhouse Serra program. His chance to prove himself on the football field finally came.

“My first three games were pretty bad. That was my first time playing football ever,” Betiku said. “In my fifth game I broke my wrist so I thought it was all over. But over time I was able to adjust to the game. I never expected to play this well but I played pretty well for my first year. My coaching staff is awesome.”

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Betiku played most of his season with a large cast on his right arm. As he acclimated to the speed of the game, he started wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. He totaled 59 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks by season’s end.

The number of college scholarship offers (14) have surpassed the number of games (11) he’s played. Notre Dame, Penn State and USC all joined Betiku’s offer list in the last week.

“I always wanted this, but I didn't know it would be this fast,” Betiku said. “I thought it would be after my Nike camps or combines before my senior year. I never thought they would come this year.”

The national recruiting services are trying to keep up. 247Sports had yet to give a rating to Betiku early last week. Now the website pegs him as a four-star prospect and the No. 17 strongside defensive end in the 2016 class. Rivals rates Betiku as a three-star recruit and No. 19 at the position.

Betiku has connections to each of the three big offers he recently received, but none may be stronger than the Penn State program that transformed Arrington into a national star.

"It was really cool,” Betiku said of the Penn State offer. “When LaVar scouted me for the first time I remember learning about Penn State. He's been waiting for Penn State to offer me for a long time."

At Notre Dame, Betiku’s connection is Irish cornerback commit Ashton White, who was a grade ahead of Betiku at Bishop McNamara.

“He told me Notre Dame is a great place,” Betiku said. “I'm pretty sure when he gets there for his freshman year he's going to tell me a lot about the school."

Betiku admits he doesn’t know a lot about the Irish, but plans to learn more after receiving the offer.

"Notre Dame is a great school,” Betiku said. “I like their gold helmets. I know they have a great alumni base. The school itself brings a lot to the table."

USC, which offered Betiku on Sunday, has a well-established pipeline at Serra. Wide receivers Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer all made the transition between the schools. Most recently, two-way star Adoree Jackson signed with USC in the past recruiting cycle.

Diving into the recruiting process will be the next step for Betiku. He’s hoping to take a close look at as many schools as possible.

“I have plenty of time to figure it out,” Betiku said. “I'm going to look at playing time and the depth chart. I'm going to see how they can prepare me to possibly play on the next level. Right now I don't have any favorite schools. I'm open to every school right now."

Below are highlights from Betiku's junior season, via Hudl.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Defensive end Oluwole Betiku has been accumulating college offers since taking up the game. (Photo Courtesy of Student Sports)