USC ready to face area prep star Khalil Tate
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California didn’t have to go far to find a scouting report on Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, the freshman who could make his first career start Saturday.
Freshman defensive end Oluwole Betiku played with Tate in high school. As one of nine current Trojans who attended Serra in Gardena, the prep powerhouse that produced cornerback Adoree Jackson and other recent USC stars, Betiku wanted to prepare the defense for the mix of size and speed Tate had as a runner.
Safety Chris Hawkins said Betiku relayed Tate’s weight as 250 pounds, versus the 212 listed on the Wildcats’ roster. Betiku admitted to the embellishment, but had a good reason for it.
“I don’t want to say 220 and they feel like he’s a really small dude. Tate is a really strong dude,” Betiku said.
Defensive lineman Rasheem Green, another former Serra player and teammate of Tate’s, agreed with the assessment.
“He is not a scared runner,” Green said. “He will try to run people over. That’s something I do respect about him, he plays with no fear.”
Betiku could be among the USC defenders tasked with containing Tate on third down. Betiku made his collegiate debut against Colorado, a significant accomplishment for someone in only his third year of football. Betiku moved to the United States from Lagos, Nigeria before his sophomore year in high school, and his rare athleticism quickly made him a highly sought-after recruit.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Betiku has impressed coaches with his recent work on the scout team, resulting in some snaps rushing the passer against the Buffaloes. Betiku treated every Tuesday when he would work against senior left tackle Chad Wheeler as a game day, and coach Clay Helton likes the progress, though cautioning he is not ready to play on every down.
“Even though he looks like a 30-year old man, he is a true freshman and he is learning a pro-style system,” Helton said. “We haven’t given him the entire package.”
But if Betiku can help keep Tate from moving the chains, it would make him a valuable addition against someone well-suited to play in Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez’s spread-option offense. In Tate’s first action against UCLA, he threw for 72 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 79 yards and directed scoring drives on three of four second-half possessions. Alternating with and ultimately replacing an injured Brandon Dawkins against Utah, Tate was tackled for a safety and threw an interception, though he also threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Samajie Grant.
In spite of those struggles, USC is aware of the threat Tate represents. Jackson even went as far as saying Tate is “pretty much the same as me” in terms of game-breaking ability.
“Once he gets the ball in his hand it’s hard to get him down,” Jackson said. “It’s one of those things where he is electrifying with the ball. He can beat you with his arm, beat you with his feet. Just a special kid.”
Confusing and pressuring Tate will be key.
“We got to show him something,” Hawkins said. “We got to try and get as many hits on him as we can. Once you start hitting the QB they are not going to run anymore, so we are going to dial some stuff up to where we can get him rattled.”
As for the rest of Betiku’s scouting report on Tate, he would not share.
“That’s exclusive information for just the defense,” Betiku said.