LaVar Arrington’s Penn State-USC Dilemma
Legendary Linebacker U alum LaVar Arrington has perhaps the greatest rooting dilemma of the New Year.
Arrington, a vocal leader among the lettermen, is the legal guardian of USC freshman defensive end Oluwole Betiku. Penn State will face the Trojans in the Rose Bowl for the third time in these two storied programs’ history (1923 and 2009) on January 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Betiku immigrated to the U.S. from Lagos, Nigeria, in November, 2013 and decided to take up football under the watchful eye of Arrington, who played in the NFL with Washington and the New York Giants from 2000-2006.
The avid soccer player had never even put on pads, let alone suited up for a game, until his sophomore year of high school at recruiting hotbed Junípero Serra in Gardena, Calif. Junior multi-gifted athlete Adoree’ Jackson was also a Cavalier, as were former Trojan star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
Betiku’s natural fast-twitch ability as a pass rusher was immediately visible, and helped him soar to five-star status in the Class of 2016. He was considered the nation’s ninth-overall prospect, the top-rated defensive end, and the best recruit in California, according to 247Sports.
In the mold of his mentor, Betiku is an imposing presence on the gridiron. He stands 6-foot-3 and is apparently up 10 pounds from his listed weight to 260. Before his senior year, Betiku participated in Nike’s annual talent showcase The Opening, alongside a handful of current Nittany Lions during summer 2015. He posted ridiculous testing numbers with a 4.57 40-yard dash and a 34-inch vertical leap. Arrington helped out as a coach at the prestigious invite-only event in Beaverton, Ore. Betiku also competed against freshmen Michal Menet, Shane Simmons, Miles Sanders, and Ellison Jordan at the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game.
Betiku had his pick of the national powers in terms of his offer sheet, but originally committed to UCLA and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who coached Arrington in the same role at Penn State. Betiku eventually decided to open things back up in order to take more official visits. He wanted to stay on the West Coast, and recognized that USC was a better fit for him on Christmas Day, 2015.
Betiku’s still absorbing the finer points of playing on Saturdays, which is especially scary for next year’s Pac-12 offenses. He made his collegiate debut against Colorado on Oct. 8 and, though he has yet to record a tackle from his role as a third-down specialist, he’s improving leaps and bounds during his first season on campus. It’s crazy to think how good he could be at USC, a school known for developing great defensive linemen, just like Penn State.
The Trojans couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish out the regular season. After getting embarrassed by No. 1 Alabama 52-6 in the opener at AT&T Stadium and back-to-back losses to Stanford and Utah, USC turned to quarterback Sam Darnold. The redshirt freshman is an impressive dual-threat with numbers somewhat comparable to Trace McSorley. He’s thrown for 2,633 yards and 26 scores to eight interceptions since taking over for Max Browne. McSorley set both the Penn State single-season record for passing yards with 3,360 and 25 touchdowns to just five picks.
Franklin on USC: “They’re hot. People are talking about USC as one of the scariest teams in the country.” Trojans have won eight straight.
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 4, 2016
Arrington will undoubtedly represent Nittany Nation in Pasadena, but it’ll be interesting to see if a Trojans wristband or hat is in store for No. 11.