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Before the start of Illinois football's training camp on Aug. 2 in Champaign, beat writer SCOTT RICHEY is counting down the Top 50 most important Illini heading into the 2019 season:

No. 14: Oluwole Betiku Jr.

Vitals: 6-3, 240, Gr., DE

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

High school: Serra (Calif.)

Looking back at 2018: Offseason hip surgery ahead of the 2018 season saw Betiku use his redshirt season last fall at Southern California after playing sparingly as a true freshman in 2016 and then not much more in 2017 as a sophomore. That 2017 season saw him make the only two tackles of his career while playing in a career-high nine games. That included a half tackle for loss against California.

Looking ahead to 2019: Betiku was a five-star prospect coming out of high school and was the Trojans’ top-ranked recruit in the 2016 class. Like fellow USC transfer Josh Imatorbhebhe, Betiku’s future at Illinois — two years, also like Imatorbhebhe — is based on the promise he showed as a prospect. Given Bobby Roundtree’s severe spinal injury, though, the Illini need Betiku to live up to that promise at defensive end.

Last year’s ranking: NR

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).