One of the fastest risers in the DMV during the last couple months is Episcopal (Alexandria, Va.) defensive lineman Tola Banjoko, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound 2018 recruit who raised more than a few eyebrows during his junior campaign.
Banjoko held a single offer from Rutgers before the season began, but after he released his tape the likes of UVA, NC State, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Georgia all came through. Additionally, coaches from Indiana, Va Tech, South Carolina, Boston College, Maryland, UNC and Pitt have all reached out and shown interest in the budding tackle/end.
Not bad for a guy who just started playing football two years ago.
“I didn’t even really watch football until I started playing it,” laughed Banjoko. “Growing up, it was just soccer and basketball back in the day. But then my friends were like, ‘You’re really big, you should play football.’ And then the football coach here got ahold of me, and I decided to give it a try. I’ve kept going with it ever since.”
Banjoko admitted he’s still raw in certain areas, but said he showed vast improvement from his sophomore to his junior year.
“I made the jump very well. I did what was asked of me to the best of my abilities. I played tackle, end and up and down the line, and I held my own against the run and did well rushing the passer too,” Banjoko said. “But I do have to improve. I still have a lot of growing to do.”
With a focus of making strides on the field, Banjoko hasn’t exactly delved into the recruiting process yet. He didn’t attend any college games during the fall, nor did he go to any camps or random campus visits prior to the season.
Not that the offers haven’t grabbed his attention.
“Basically I’ve looked at every option and gotten an overview of all the schools that have offered me and are interested in me,” Banjoko said. “Obviously, the SEC schools that offered were big, but, really, every school that’s recruiting me is a blessing. But for me to really decide on leaders and standouts, I have to take some visits first and see what the schools are like. I haven’t taken any yet, but I plan to in the next month or two.”
When asked which programs he wants to take in, Banjoko said “everywhere.” He specifically mentioned every school that’s offered him, in addition to South Carolina, Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame and several others.
The Terps, of course, are the hometown school. Although he lives in Virginia, College Park, Md., is only a half hour or so from his home.
“Maryland, that’s a good school. I’d love to be offered by them and get up there for a visit,” Banjoko said. “I talked to one of the coaches and he said to come up whenever I wanted.”
That coach was not UMD-area recruiter Mike London, however. Banjoko said he’s yet to establish a rapport with the Terps’ defensive line coach, but would like to in short order.
“Right now, all I really know about Maryland is it’s a good academic school, which is great,” Banjoko said. “And I know they produced Yannick Ngakoue, who is with the Jaguars. He’s a real nice player. Other than that, I don’t know much yet. But I definitely want to check it out since it’s close by and it’s a good school.”
The Episcopal prospect said the main factors he’ll be looking for in a school when he ventures out will be academic reputation, playing time opportunities and comfort level on campus.
“I really want to find a place with a family feel and I could see myself living for the next four, five years,” said Banjoko, who acknowledged he has no dream school or offers he’s waiting on. “And obviously academics are very, very important to me too, and, like every recruit, I want to be able to get on the field.”