Watkins poised for early playing time at CB

Our 13th of 22 (and counting?) "Eye in the Sky" film reviews for Notre Dame's incoming pledges examines four-star prospect Nick Watkins and how the ready-made cover corner could improve head coach Brian Kelly's Irish roster in 2014 and beyond.

One of 13 current Irish pledges to place in the 2014 Scout.com 300, 6'1" 187-pound cornerback Nick Watkins ranks No. 20 at his position, No. 205 overall.

He enters the Notre Dame program with the opportunity to earn a presumed open fourth spot among the squad's two-deep cornerback depth chart for the upcoming season.

Below is a film review of Watkins with an eye toward how he could help Notre Dame's secondary, both in 2014 and beyond.

Strengths and areas for development

Plays the deep ball exceptionally well, attacking a contested pass in the air when the pass is at its highest point…Shows great feet, speed, and elusiveness after the catch and following turnovers…At 6'1" has the size to grow into a safety position but there's nothing more valuable in a modern secondary than a tall cornerback that can turn, run, and change direction like Watkins...

Communicates well in zone coverage and shows great hands to pluck the ball whether the pass is thrown behind him, or low, or high…High leg kick when sprints indicates great flexibility, a must to avoid injuries at the position…A natural cover man that could be an effective collegiate corner at 5'9", but at 6'1" with his leaping ability, coordination, and ball skills, Watkins is a top prospect...

An extremely quick athlete that covers ground in a hurry; has long strides but doesn't slow to cut, either as receiver or defender…Has a knack for stepping in front of throws and understands how to bait QBs -- he'll have to first learn that he can't alwyas do so at the next level…

Reads offenses well, recognizing routes in zone coverage, diagnosing screens in front of him, and displays a feel for what his opponent wants to accomplish in man coverage...

Not much evidence that he enjoys hitting (or form tackles) in his film though he understands tackling angles and was often able to submarine blocks to make difficult tackles at the knees/ankles on the perimeter…Physical aspect of college will be change though at 6'1" 187, his frame is ahead of many his age.

Road blocks to playing time

Words to describe Watkins from film review: fluid, dynamic, aggressive, intelligent, playmaker…

But there's no evidence the word "rugged" should be included.

That's his first impediment to playing time -- how will Watkins tackle and support the run at the collegiate level as a true freshman?

Should he display a penchant for the physical to augment his athletic gifts, Watkins will pose a stiff challenge to returning senior Jalen Brown (just two games played in 2013 preceded his bowl game suspension) and redshirt-freshman Rashad Kinlaw -- a relative neophyte at the position after playing mainly quarterback in high school and for the 2013 Irish scout team.

Junior Keivarae Russell and sophomores Cole Luke and Devin Butler are presumed far ahead of their trio of challengers noted above.

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