Northwestern projected starting cornerback Keith Watkins II will miss the entire 2016 season with a knee injury, the team announced Tuesday morning.
Watkins suffered the injury in practice last week and will undergo surgery August 25.
Watkins, a junior, had played very well as a replacement to both Matthew Harris and Nick VanHoose at various times last year, including replacing VanHoose in the bowl game. Watkins was expected to join Harris as part of a very good cornerback tandem this year after amassing 47 tackles (33 solo) in 2015.
With Watkins out, Northwestern is scrambling for replacements, though Pat Fitzgerald has spoken highly of Montre Hartage and Alonzo Mayo this offseason. Additionally, redshirt freshman Trae Williams, who had moved to safety, might be a candidate to move back to corner as well. Well-regarded true freshman Roderick Campbell could be a candidate for playing time now, too.
This is a major, major loss for Northwestern, which lost VanHoose to graduation and Marcus McShepard to the offensive side of the ball. Watkins is a solid, physical corner who has more experience than all of the players behind him combined. We will continue to monitor who steps up in his absence in the remaining training camp practices, including the Saturday, Aug. 20 scrimmage.