If there’s one name to remember on the Illinois defense, it’s Oluwole Betiku Jr.
The Nigerian-born former Southern Cal player is a graduate transfer at Illinois and he’s making the most so far in his first season with the Illini.
Betiku has six sacks in jus three games already this year.
With the health of Nebraska’s regular left tackle Brenden Jaimes in doubt, Betiku could have a big day Saturday against the Huskers.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Nebraska offensive coordinator TroyWalters said. “They want to cause disruption. They get after it upfront. They don’t do a whole lot in the back end, but they’re really disruptive, they twist, they move a lot upfront.
“So we’ve got our hands full. I think if we do a good job of protecting Adrian (Martinez) and giving him a clean pocket, there are throws to be made but they present a challenge in terms of protecting and keeping him clean.”
Jaimes was injured during the Northern Illinois game a week ago. He was back in practice on Wednesday, but his status for Saturday is not yet known.
Broc Bando stepped into his spot when Jaimes went down, and the sophomore from Lincoln could get his first start Saturday.
Junior tackle Matt Farniok said Bando has improved greatly in the last year or so.
“He has changed a lot. He has just adapted and overcame some adversity and he picked up,” Farniok said. “When you’re an O-lineman, it’s the little things. If you’re taking an inch too far in your step, all your weight is shifting one way and he has done a great job really fine-tuning his details.
“I am just extremely proud of him because he is kind of seeing some of the benefits of all the work he has been doing.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost sees a better defensive team when he looks at Illinois.
“Watching Illinois on tape more on defense so far, they’ve improved a bunch since last year defensively,” Frost said. “Some of the schematic things they’re doing are different. They look bigger and faster to me. You can tell they’re older and more experienced than they were a year ago.”
Betiku isn’t the only transfer in the starting lineup. Former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters won the starting job at Illinois this season.
And he has help from Reggie Corbin, a player many believe is one of the top running backs in the conference.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said the Illini have a good offense scheme for the quarterback run game.
“The kid last year (quarterback AJ Bush) was a really good football player,” Chinander said. “He could almost run the football like a running back. I think the new quarterback (Peters) they have is a little better at working the system. He can pull it and be dangerous on the quarterback run, but he can also distribute it to where he needs to.”
Peters has also completed 63.2% of his passes for 687 yards and nine touchdowns.
“I think he’s a little better in the pass game than they had in the previous year,” Chinander said. “They have a nice system with some difficult passes to defend and some difficult run concepts to defend.”