Watkins high on NU, preparing for visit

Moeller High School running back prospect Keith Watkins is set to visit Northwestern's lakeside campus this upcoming weekend. Does the three-star recruit have the Wildcats high on his final list? Find out in this PurpleWildcats.com recruiting update.

Keith Watkins, Scout.com's No. 53 running back in the class of 2013, has narrowed his list down to six schools – Arizona State, Cincinnati, Iowa, Northwestern, West Virginia and Wisconsin – and he is preparing to trek west from his Cincinnati home to take in the sights and sounds of Evanston, Ill., this weekend.

"I'm hoping just to get the chance to meet with the coaches, see how the coaches are, see how the campus is," Watkins said. "Of course look at the football field and see how that is. And just try to get a connection with the coaches because that's a big key."

Though Watkins said he is not ready to pick favorites out of his final group, he conceded that, at this point, Northwestern is "at the top" and liked by both himself and his parents.

"Academics is one of the reasons it's at the top," the 5-foot-11, 175-pound tailback said. "Also, it's in the Big Ten, I mean, you're playing against big time schools every weekend. I'm a competition player, I like to play against competition, so playing in the Big Ten for Northwestern – if I decide to make that my school – it'd be ideal."

Which might, coincidentally, be how Northwestern's coaching staff – including linebackers coach Randy Bates, who has led Watkins' recruitment for the Wildcats – would describe a commitment from the Moeller High School product.

According to Dave Berk, Scout.com's Ohio recruiting analyst, Watkins is versatile, and he can run between the tackles or on the perimeter. Last year, as a junior, Watkins rushed for 687 yards and nine touchdowns and caught 24 passes for 168 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games, helping Moeller go 9-4 and reach a Division I regional final.

Northwestern already boasts commitments from two top-150 running backs – Warren Long from Union City, Calif., and Xavier Menifield from Chatsworth, Calif. – meaning Watkins versatility could be crucial. The three-star running back could give Northwestern enviable running back depth in its 2013 class, with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks, or he could even play on the other side of the ball.

"Some of [my final schools] want me to play running back," Watkins explained. "Northwestern, they said I could do either. Arizona State, they want me to play DB. West Virginia, running back. Most of the schools want me to play running back, but Northwestern and Arizona State, they said I could end up playing DB as well. … It's not that important to me, as long as I'm on the field."

Previously, Watkins had indicated that he planned to put off his commitment until after his senior campaign, but he told PurpleWildcats.com he may ultimately choose to expedite the process.

"I might end up committing before the season, before my first game," he said. "After my visit this week, it might be a little bit sooner. I'll talk it over with my parents and my coach and see how that goes."

But while uncertainty may surround Watkins' commitment plans and timeline for the time being, there is none when it comes to goals for his upcoming season.

"I want to just try and lead my team to a state championship," he said. "My goal is to reach over 1,000 yards and just try to top what I did last year – be a better player and a better leader."

And a state championship may not be far-fetched – MaxPreps.com has Moeller ranked No. 19 nationally, according to Mike Dyer, the high school sports editor and recruiting coordinator for The Cincinnati Enquirer.

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