Just last spring, Oluwole Betiku Jr. found himself in the transfer portal after undergoing major hip surgery during his time with the USC Trojans. Now, Betiku seems poised to make a living playing the game he loves, and a year with the Illinois Fighting Illini helped him to get there.
Betiku finished the 2020 season with 36 tackles (13.0 TFL), 9.0 sacks, and two fumble recoveries, as well as a selection to the All-Big Ten Third Team (Media). Nine sacks gives Betiku the seventh-most all time in a single season for an Illinois defender, which is even more impressive considering that he was forced to sit out four games due to an injury. When Betiku was on the field, he made his presence felt and often commanded the attention of the opposing offensive linemen.
The nation’s leader in tackles for loss (10.5) and tied for the most sacks with 7, is Illinois grad transfer Oluwole Betiku Jr. (@Kingwolehoudini). He has been a monster this season, absolutely disruptive and quick off the ball. @WholeNineSports #WNSFilm pic.twitter.com/WOsT1dZj7N— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 25, 2019
Among his most impressive performances in the 2020 season was his incredible 3.5 sack performance against UConn. Betiku’s sacks and fumble recovery in Hartford could have easily been the deciding factors that tilted the scales in favor of the Illini, during a game that was otherwise way too close for comfort.
Betiku has solid technique and gets effective leverage in pass rush situations. Although not quite as renowned as a run defender, Betiku certainly held his own on the line against some outstanding Big Ten running backs and mobile quarterbacks. One potential concern regarding Betiku is his ability to consistently get into the backfield against comparably skilled competition, as all but three of his sacks came against non-Power 5 opponents.
Although he did not receive an invite to the NFL Combine, Betiku performed well at Illinois’ Pro Day. He posted a short shuttle time of 4.62, which would have been the best time among defensive line participants at the Combine, while his 4.69 40-yard dash time would have been the third-best among defensive linemen at the event.
As for the draft, I see Betiku making the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL, similar to the trajectory of former Illini Whitney Mercilus. I predict Betiku will be a fourth-round selection by the Green Bay Packers at 136th overall. Betiku’s size and mobility would serve him well as an outside linebacker in the Mike Pettine’s flexible defensive scheme.