A weekend that is expected to include Notre Dame’s seventh victory of the season began with a bang Friday, as the Fighting Irish landed their 17th commitment of the 2014 class in cornerback Nick Watkins
The Dallas native made his announcement at his high school, Bishop Dunne, Friday morning, less than two weeks after wrapping up an official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game. Watkins’ recruitment has been somewhat under the radar, although he does reportedly hold offers from such national powers as Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.
At 6’1” and 189 pounds, Watkins has the size that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco likes in cornerbacks. His frame is similar to current Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson, but Watkins is more technically advanced at this point in his career than Jackson or KeiVarae Russell.
Watkins is rated as one of the top cornerbacks in the country—No. 11 by Rivals and No. 20 by 247Sports. In the 247Composite rankings, which combines ranking in various recruiting reporting outlets, Watkins is rated the No. 113 prospect nationally at all positions.
The commitment comes at a position of need for Notre Dame, as Watkins is the first defensive back commit in the class. The remaining 16 commits include one quarterback, two wide receivers, one tight end, four offensive linemen, four defensive linemen, two linebackers and a kicker.
Notre Dame also has a reported offer out to Watkins’ Bishop Dunne teammate, safety Payton Hendrix, who also visited South Bend for the USC-Notre Dame game on Oct. 19. The addition of Watkins to the class can only help the Irish’s chances with Hendrix. Notre Dame would like to add multiple safeties in this class after signing only Max Redfield in the 2013 class.
National Signing Day is Feb. 5, less than 100 days away. Notre Dame likely has room for at least six more commitments in the class. Top remaining targets include a trio of elite southern California prospects—tight end Tyler Luatua, guard Damien Mama, athlete JuJu Smith. All three officially visited Notre Dame for the USC game, and attending school together is at least a realistic scenario.
The Irish have a ways to go if they hope to sign a top-five class, but Watkins’ commitment gives them one of the top prospects on their board at a crucial position. It also continues a recent trend of recruiting success in Texas after a dry spell for much of the 2000s.
Watkins joins defensive end Grant Blankenship as 2014 commits from the Lone Star State. The Irish signed three Texas prospects in 2013—wide receivers Torii Hunter Jr. and Corey Robinson and tight end Durham Smythe.
While results of games are the most important aspects of fall weekends, recruiting can't be ignored. Landing Watkins this early in the game is a major success for Notre Dame as it enters the home stretch of the 2014 recruiting cycle.