Notre Dame DE target Oluwole Betiku a master of first impressions

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Oluwole Betiku lined up against his opponent not knowing what to expect.

The 6-foot-4, 239-pound defensive end knew he would be rushing against some of the best offensive linemen at The Opening Finals in Beaverton, Ore., but he didn’t know what kind of problems that would present.

Turns out, when you’re as good as Betiku, it doesn’t change much.

“At first, I didn’t know how strong they are, if they bench press 400 (pounds),” Betiku said. “I just wanted to beat them with my speed first. When I went on the edge, the guy I went against I didn’t have to touch one time because I just ran past him. He couldn’t kick back and get to me. It was pretty interesting. All offensive linemen do the same thing.”

That offensive lineman turned out to be Notre Dame commit Tommy Kraemer. The players had yet to put on pads and Betiku had already made his presence known. In a short time playing football, Betiku has become a master of first impressions.

After being discovered in a football camp in Nigeria by a group including former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington, Betiku left his family in November 2013 to move to the United States with Arrington. Less than a year later, Betiku played his first football season at Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra. He’s been embarrassing offensive linemen and sacking quarterbacks ever since.

With only one season of football under his belt — much of which he played with a cast on his right arm — Betiku has already developed into one of the best defensive end recruits in the country. He credits those around him for putting him in a position to succeed.

“I’m just thankful to God, thankful to my mom, all the coaches that have supported me, everyone that has been welcoming me since day one,” Betiku said. “Everyone in my school – coaches, people — hits me up. ‘Let’s get working.’ Sometimes I work out three days with three different people. Everything has added up to this.”

Betiku was even asked to take some reps at defensive tackle last week. He was sure to listen to Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for some advice. He had to rely on strength instead of pure speed.

“They put me inside and I couldn’t say no. I can’t pass it up,” Betiku said. “I just had to do it. When my name was called, I just went to business.”

But Betiku’s future will likely be working on the edge, and he might not have to wait long to get on the field in college. A school like Notre Dame can pitch the opportunity of early playing time.

“I’m not trying to boast, but I want to make an impact early,” Betiku said. “If I have to redshirt, I will. I’m still learning.”

The pass-rush apprentice is slated as a five-star prospect and the top weakside defensive end in the 2016 class by 247Sports. Rivals rates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 4 strongside defensive end.

Notre Dame received a spot in Betiku’s top six schools — alongside Florida, Texas A&M, Florida State, Penn State and UCLA — and is in line to receive an official visit.

“It’s a great program,” Betiku said. “Without football or with football, Notre Dame will always be Notre Dame. That’s what I like.”

Irish associate head coach Mike Denbrock has been recruiting Betiku and building a relationship with him.

“He’s real good,” Betiku said. “He’s straight-up with me. He tells me how it is over there. I’m going to have a chance to play early if I come over there because they need pass rushers.”

Pulling prospects from California, especially at a USC pipeline like Serra, has been challenging for Notre Dame at times. Betiku’s background, however, might give schools a better chance of pulling him out of a state where he has few ties. His biggest pull might come from Penn State where Arrington, his legal guardian, played.

“I see myself going anywhere,” Betiku said. “It just has to be the right reason. If I have a reason to leave, I’m packing my bags and I’m going. If I’m a coach and I get a job at Notre Dame, I’m moving to Notre Dame.”

Below are Betiku's junior highlights via Hudl.

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Notre Dame DE target Oluwole Betiku listens to NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at The Opening. (Photo courtesy of Nike)
Elite defensive end recruit Oluwole Betiku plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy of Nike)