After getting its sixth commitment from OL Tommy Doles just this weekend, Northwestern picked up its seventh commitment from WR Dareian Watkins, a four-star recruit who chose the Wildcats over Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and a host of others. Watkins visited NU in the fall and in March, and he visited again just this past weekend. He also could get his brother, LaCario Davison, to come to Evanston in 2015. Check out more on our 2014 football recruiting board.
School: Galion (OH)
Other offers: Akron, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Ohio, Penn State, Purdue, Toledo, West Virginia, Wisconsin
What's the Hype?
A couple days ago, after the Doles commitment, ESPN recruiting analyst Jared Shanker tweeted that this might end up being the best class Northwestern has ever put together. People tend to be skeptical of that kind of hyperbole, but seven players in, it's tough to find an NU class that's better than this one so far. The Wildcats have a commitment from four-star quarterback Clayton Thorson, who turned down such schools as Ole Miss, Iowa and Penn State, and high-three star wide receiver Solomon Vault, who chose NU over Tennessee and Nebraska, among others. The other members of this class — Jordan Thomas, Cameron Queiro, Ben Oxley and Doles — all had very respectable offers and are pretty high level players, too. Watkins makes the class even better, and his commitment could have NU in the top 25 of some national recruiting rankings very soon.
Like Vault, Watkins is a speedster. He runs a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and noted the success of NU's current speedy receiver, Tony Jones. However, unlike Jones and Vault, Watkins has a big frame. He's 6-foot-2, and his combination of size and speed makes him a great target, and it's why he was so highly sought after as a recruit. There's another interesting aspect to Watkins' recruitment — his brother, 2015 prospect LaCario Davison. Davison doesn't have an offer yet, but he visited with Watkins in March, and after seeing the school, said he's "dead set" on attending NU. Obviously things have to play out right for this to happen, but there's the possibility of Watkins and Davison being a package deal.
Where He Fits In
As noted above, Watkins' strength is his versatility. He has impressive speed, but he also has the frame to go up and get passes. If he really is a taller Tony Jones, NU is going to have a special receiver on its hands. Of course, those are tough expectations to place on a kid who's never even been on a college practice field, but there are certainly a lot of college coaches who think he could be a major contributor once he gets to the next level.
The purpose of the "where he fits in" section of this "take a seat" series isn't to try to break down playing time for the 2014 season, because that would be ridiculous. Rather, it's a look at how he would fit in with the personnel available when he gets to college. NU is going to have a lot of veteran receivers in Watkins' freshman year — Christian Jones, Cameron Dickerson, Tony Jones, Kyle Prater and Pierre Youngblood-Ary — so there isn't a great need there. However, that will give Watkins a chance to break into the offense at his own pace without being forced in there.
NU will always work to establish the run, and the Wildcats have some talented backs in Malin Jones, Stephen Buckley and, potentially, Godwin Igwebuike. However, under dual-threat quarterbacks of the future Matt Alviti and Clayton Thorson, NU should incorporate a lot more passing than it currently does in the Kain Colter-Trevor Siemian combination. Alviti and Thorson can run, but they're more pass-oriented than Colter is, and the Wildcats' offense will reflect those changes. That provides better opportunities for the wide receivers, who are currently involved in run blocking more than anything else, and it will give Watkins a little bit of a different role than if he were coming into the offense today. Ultimately, with his combination of size and speed, it will be interesting to see how he's used. But regardless, he's a good player for NU to have on the roster.