There is always one in every recruiting class. One guy who you watch the film of and you think, “why is this guy a three star prospect?” Last year that guy was originally Kyle Hamilton, before the recruiting services came to their senses and placed him in the top 100. Other past candidates were Tommy Tremble in 2018, Michael Young in 2017, and Julian Love famously in 2016.
This year, that guy is three star receiver Xavier Watts out of Omaha, Nebraska. He committed to Notre Dame in July of 2019, at the time a mid three star player and he is currently a slightly higher mid three star player. He picked the Irish over home state Nebraska, boring and sad football program Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Iowa State. Basically all of Big 10 country was in on him and that’s where his offer list stayed.
To be clear, the answer to the question of why he’s a three star is pretty simple. He’s not overly big at 6-1, 190, he’s not overly fast, and he doesn’t play in the best league. But, then there is the game film and the production and you just kind of shake your head. He tallied 1,072 receiving yards, scored 16 touchdowns, registered 68 tackles and had three interceptions, and by the way two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. He did it from the slot, on the outside, and in the backfield. This is not a three star player, folks.
Anyone Interested In A Rhema McKnight Redux?
Guess who I am going to compare Watts to? You guessed it, the former five star player out of Southern California in 2003. Both players have similar size, speed, and skill sets. McKnight was excellent out of the slot and on the outside, he had the ability to go up and make the catch, had a good feel weaving through traffic with the ball in his hands, and was a nice big target. That’s what Watts brings to the field as a receiver.
The thing that stands out with him, and with a lot of receivers nowadays, is how good he is as a route runner being just a high school player. This is where he differs from someone like Ramon Henderson, who is such a physically gifted player, he mostly relies on that to get open, Watts knows how to get a defensive back leaning the wrong way or get them out leveraged on a route, and creates space not just with his speed, but with his skill and instincts.
He also has a way of varying speeds within a route to create space without having to fully throttle down. This gets the defensive back a little bit off balance and allows himself to separate from the defender. Again, this is really advanced for a high school player.
Can He Play Defense?
As a caveat right up front, I don’t think there has been talk of Watts playing defense by the coaches. But, with his experience playing safety in high school and his physical nature as a tackler, it makes sense that he might get a look there. For lack of a better way to put it, Watts is not afraid of the contact. And that’s the type of player you want in the back end, especially with the ball skills that he has.
This is the value of a player like Watts, and a player like Ramon Henderson for that matter, who has the ability to play multiple positions on offense or defense and contribute on special teams as well. He isn’t a one trick pony who specializes in one area and because of that he offers tremendous value.
Watts Was A Top Target
Something to keep in mind when thinking about Watts as a player is this staff valued him over some other higher rated prospects, and we know that’s not just spin because when Watts committed the staff shut down other recruitments. We can debate on whether or not the staff is right to do that or not, but the fact is they felt he was a top talent, prioritized him, fought off a tough challenge from Scott Frost and Nebraska and they got the guy that they wanted. So, he may be labeled a three star player, but he’s darn good at playing football and it’s good that he wants to play for us.