The month of November got off to a good start for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday with the pledge of Dallas (Texas) Bishop Dunne cornerback Nick Watkins.
A consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 11 cornerback nationally and the No. 17 player in Texas in the 247Sports Composite rankings, the 6'1, 185-pounder with reported 4.50 speed in the 40 is considered the No. 113 player nationally.
The Irish were long considered the favorite for Watkins, as 95% of his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions had him ending up in South Bend for college. Watkins had named the Texas Longhorns his leader back in August, but watching Notre Dame play in Dallas against Arizona State early in August and then taking his official visit in mid-October for the USC game was enough to convince him to end his recruitment in favor of head coach Brian Kelly and his staff.
Watkins also held offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas, UCLA, and a number of other schools.
Considered a potential early-impact player because of playmaking ability that has allowed him to rack up eight interceptions this year, Watkins has the talent to become a lock-down cornerback in college with his combination of length and speed:
Long-legged and tall for a cornerback at over 6'0, Watkins may not quite be rail thin, but he's not far off, either. As a likely boundary corner at the next level, he'll be asked to do a lot of jamming at the line of scrimmage and will need to add a fair amount of strength to keep from being overpowered in those situations.
A long strider who has good top-end speed and solid short-area quickness, Watkins also plays some wide receiver for his school, always a positive way to develop good ball skills, which he shows off consistently in the redzone as a touchdown machine for Bishop Dunne.
In coverage, he's a little bit straight up at times when opposing receivers come off the ball, but he's fluid with his transitions and shows the awareness in man coverage to come off his man and intercept passes when the quarterback doesn't recognize him getting underneath those routes.
How is Watkins as a tackler? Well, there's no evidence of his tackling on film from his junior year, so perhaps he didn't give up any completions. In all seriousness, it's an area of his game that could be impacted by his strength and may need to develop in college, but that is obviously speculation.
All in all, Watkins has elite size of his position, though his first- and second-step quickness is slightly less than elite and his competition level in high school leaves quite a bit to be desired. Still, it's not hard to see why he has such an impressive offer list -- he is indeed one of the top cornerbacks in Texas for 2014 and there is plenty of competition there.
Watkins is the 17th pledge in an excellent Notre Dame class that ranks No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings and is the only cornerback currently committed.
Bishop Dunne (Dallas, TX) Nick Watkins - WR-DB #6 (via Maxprepssports)
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