Betiku’s choice was not a big surprise. He attends Junípero Serra High in Gardena, Calif., a USC pipeline, and took his final official visit to the school’s campus in Los Angeles last month. Scout.com’s Greg Biggins noted that “most felt Betiku was a solid USC lean” in the spring, and the Trojans were considered a strong contender to land him entering Friday’s announcement.
But Betiku initially committed to UCLA in August, after releasing a top six a few months prior that didn’t include USC (Florida, Texas A&M, Florida State, Penn State, Notre Dame, UCLA). He later decided to take official visits to Florida State and Texas A&M, and then reopened his recruitment before to another official trip to Notre Dame in November.
“At this time I have decided to open up my recruiting,” Betiku wrote. “It is in my best interest to take my time with the recruiting process and weigh my options carefully, it’s a lifetime decision and I pray God guides me to make the best decision. I’d like to thank UCLA coaching staffs.”
USC made up ground in its recruitment of Betiku after he decommitted from the Bruins, with Serra teammate and Trojans pledge C.J. Pollard and coach Clay Helton reportedly sitting with Betiku for 40 minutes on campus in November to discuss how he would fit at USC. Betiku returned to the school in December for the aforementioned official visit before making his final decision.
A native of Nigeria, Betiku grew up playing soccer and boxing before being identified at a football camp by a former Maryland player. Betiku eventually got acquainted with former NFL linebacker LaVar Arrington, who also played a role in class of 2015 Florida State recruit Abdul Bello’s move to the United States and became Betiku’s legal guardian.
Betiku initially lived in Maryland but reportedly moved to California and enrolled at Serra after the NFL Network hired Arrington. Though Betiku needed some time to learn the game, he dominated opposing offensive linemen thanks to his combination of size, strength and athleticism. As a senior, he recorded 70 total tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 17 sacks, according to MaxPreps.
Scout.com’s scouting report of Betiku notes that he is “naturally strong, plays with a non-stop motor and is a high level athlete. He has good short area quickness for a rush end, can turn the corner and run down plays from behind. He’s physical at the point of attack, can disengage and make a play as well. He’s still raw technique wise and learning the game but few players have as much potential.”
Betiku represents USC’s biggest recruiting win since former coach Steve Sarkisian was fired in October. He was one of the top remaining uncommitted players in the class of 2016 and becomes the highest ranked prospect in the Trojans’ class. Betiku checks in at No. 8 in the latest version of the Scout 300, followed by wide receivers Tyler Vaughns (28) and Michael Pittman (34).
Not only is Betiku’s addition a promising development for a USC defense that ranked 56th nationally in points per game allowed and 49th in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ last season (and has yet to name its new coordinator), it’s a huge loss for the Pac-12 program that shares Los Angeles with the Trojans, UCLA, which once had Betiku set to put pen to paper on National Signing Day early next month.
The best way for now-permanent coach Helton to get USC moving in the right direction under his charge—other than, you know, winning games—is to stockpile talent and build momentum through recruiting. Betiku certainly will help in that regard. Helton may score more recruiting victories leading up to signing day in early February, but none may be as significant as Betiku’s decision.