Former five-star recruit headed to C-U

Former five-star recruit headed to C-U

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football coach Lovie Smith has been significantly more open to adding graduate transfers this offseason. Alabama transfer offensive lineman Richie Petitbon has already worked into the starting lineup this spring. 

Richmond transfer wide receiver Dejon Brissett will provide needed depth at the position when he arrives on campus.

The latest graduate transfer to commit to Illinois, though, comes with the highest profile. 

Former five-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku Jr. announced Thursday afternoon he would join the Illini after starting his career at Southern California.

Betiku was ranked as the No. 1 weakside defensive end, the No. 1 player in California and the No. 9 overall recruit in the 2016 class coming out of Junipero Serra High School in Gardena, Calif. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder had two dozen high-majors offers before he chose the Trojans over the likes of Notre Dame, Florida State, Alabama and several other Power 5 programs.

Betiku enrolled early at USC and played in five games as a true freshman in 2016 at defensive end although he didn’t make a tackle. He moved to outside linebacker as a sophomore in 2017 and played in nine games while finishing with two tackles.

Hip surgery following his second season with the Trojans cost Betiku all of 2018. He’ll arrive in Champaign immediately eligible with two seasons remaining to play. 

Betiku will give the Illini more depth at defensive end with Bobby Roundtree, Owen Carney, Isaiah Gay, Lere Oladipo and Ayo Shogbonyo all returning. Both Carney and Gay have not participated in spring practices for Illinois while recovering from injuries.