USC defensive line signee Rasheem Green loved his trip to Oregon for The Opening Finals last year. That’s why he was constantly in the ear of his younger Gardena (Calif.) Serra defensive line teammate Oluwole Betiku. Green wanted Betiku to earn a trip to the prestigious summer camp that features 160 of the best high school players from around the country.
“It’s a big deal. Rasheem talks about The Opening all the time,” Betiku said. “He’s always telling me that if I don’t get the invite, he’s going to be mad at me."
Betiku couldn't compete in the Los Angeles Regional earlier this summer because of a wrist injury, so he knew that The Opening Oakland Regional was his best opportunity to shine. There was plenty of pressure though. Not only from Green, but from outsiders that expect the gargantuan of a man to dominate every snap he takes.
When the Nigerian native first went to the NIKE Football Training Camp last year in Washington D.C., before ever playing in a high school football game, he stood out with his combination of speed and power, but he was an unknown commodity. Now after a year at a school like Serra that produces a number of Division I talents every year, expectations were much higher.
“I mean it’s a lot of pressure because when I went to NIKE Camp, the first Opening camp in D.C. no one knew who I was. I had some good reps, but I didn’t have [the pressure of] ‘Oh, I got to win a rep or I got to win this rep.’ Now it’s like, ‘I can’t get locked up!’”
Betiku made sure that didn’t happen often in Oakland and doesn't have to worry about Green being upset or disappointed. He earned one of the coveted invitations to The Opening Finals. When his name was called, second to last of the 12 invitees, the 6-foot-3.5, 246-pound Betiku came sprinting to the front of the gathered players with a smile as long as his journey.
“It feels good. I made sure I ran my 40 good. I did my good vertical jump and I did my three-cone drill. My wrist ain’t really 100-percent, but I got a few good reps in and I felt like I did really good.”
Amongst the Oakland crop of defensive linemen, Betiku ran the fastest 40 recorded at 4.81 seconds, had the third-best three-cone shuttle drill time at 4.42 and jumped a position-best 34.4 inches. Then in the one-on-one drills, he surprised himself.
“I did better than what I expected of myself because coming off this injury, I haven’t really worked on my one-on-one. I can’t really bull rush right now, so I had to get around guys quick without having to engage them and locking on.”
Lining up a little bit wider than he normally would, Betiku consistently used his speed on the edge to cause problems for the offensive linemen.
“It got to a point that they kind of figured it out that my wrist was bad. They tried to jump out on me real quick,” Betiku said. “At that point, I need to bull rush, but I can’t because of my hand. Health first.”
With seven weeks in between the Oakland regional and The Opening Finals, Betiku plans to be fully healthy and ready to make an impact when he makes the trip to Oregon. He’s already making a big impact in recruiting with everyone intrigued by the prospect of having such an elite physical specimen rushing the passer off the edge.
Originally, Betiku wanted to make an early decision, but he has since backed away from that possibility. Instead, he is now focused on narrowing down his schools to determine where to take his official visits and make a choice from there.
He said he’s tried to stay off of social media much because he doesn’t want to have to spend his entire day responding to coaches on Twitter and Facebook. Instead, personal contact is more important for Betiku.
“If coaches come around, I just talk and have a good conversation. I feel if it’s real important to you, you’re going to come by the school when you have a chance, so I don’t really put it on Twitter on Facebook. I’ve learned to also take everything slow and just take my time with everything.”
Betiku mentioned Washington, UCLA and USC as programs that have been in contact with him consistently. He talked positively about UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and how the Bruins want to use him in different outside rush techniques. The Bruins are also pitching Betiku on the Nigerian connection the school is creating with junior offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch and incoming recruits Soso Jamabo and Josh Wariboko.
“So many Nigerian dudes, so they all told me…they want me to be the next Nigerian.”
With USC, Betiku said he hears about the Trojans constantly from Serra teammate Caleb Wilson, son of USC defensive line coach Chris Wilson.
“I still talk to Coach Wilson. His son’s in my school so when we talk, he talks about me playing rush end. Most of my game is going to be in the backfield. They want me going in the backfield every snap. I talk to Tee Martin, Coach Tee, and I still have a good relationship with USC.”
Check out Wole Betiku running the 40 and his one-on-one reps from The Opening Oakland Regional: