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Friday, November 1, 2013
Scouts' Take: ND gets savvy DB Watkins

By Craig Haubert

Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne) committed to Notre Dame Friday becoming the Fighting Irish's top-rated defensive recruit. Here’s a look at how the Lone Star State prospect will make an impact in South Bend: What he brings: Listed as a cornerback in the ESPN 300, Watkins could transition to the next level at that position or potentially develop into a safety. He has very good height and a frame that can support more size with time in Notre Dame’s weight program. Not elite, but good playing speed, balance and fluidity for his size. He is a smart defender who demonstrates good awareness and recognition skills. He also possesses very good ball skills and can make a play when competing for the football. His size can allow him to be a physical presence and match up well with bigger receivers. A good tackler, who, with his size and further polish, can be tough in run support.

How he fits: Watkins is a great fit for Notre Dame and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's scheme. He has the size and strong zone skillset as both a run and pass supporter to develop into a productive perimeter defender for the Irish. He also has the savvy Diaco likes in his corners as Watkins shows a good understanding of how to defend the flat and effectively read the quarterback to jump routes. He can press and play man as well, as ND likes to pressure, but if he shows any type of difficulty locking up on an island and overall in his coverage skills, he could develop into a free safety.

Prediction for performance: With a need to get more athletic in the secondary, Notre Dame addressed that area and signed some promising players in their 2013 class. Some of the talent they brought in like Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) and Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) are already contributing and gaining valuable experience. Watkins' size, scheme versatility and ability to potentially play CB or S could put him in the mix in year one as well. The four-star defender should add quality depth initially and once he gains some experience, physically develops further and finds his fit in ND’s defense, he possesses the tools to be a productive starter.

How the class is shaping up: Watkins gives the Fighting Irish their seventh ESPN 300 prospect and their first projected DB prospect for 2014. Overall, Notre Dame’s class, led by top-10 offensive tackle prospect Alex Bars (Nashville, Tenn./Montgomery Bell), sits in the top 15 nationally.