The guard position needs continued depth and an infusion of talent as well. Of the thirteen offensive linemen signed only six of them project at guard. Of that group of six, Matt Carufel has already transferred to Minnesota. That leaves only five guards signed over the last three seasons. More are needed.
The top of the Irish wish list at guard appears to be Chris Watt. While he is a left tackle in high school he projects as a guard at the next level.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound prospect from Illinois doesn't have the same natural size of some of Notre Dame's previous guard commitments. His athletic ability, toughness, and attitude more than make up for his size.
Right now Watt is listed anywhere between 270 to 280 pounds. While he's a bit thin at this time, he has an athletic frame that should easily carry at least 15 more pounds in college. I personally would rather have a young player with a good frame to add weight, than a player who needs to lose weight or redistribute weight. At between 6'3 and 6'4, he has very good height for a projected interior player.
Watt is a very good athlete with outstanding quickness. He moves his feet well and is very fast in the open field and in open space. He moves down the line very quickly on pulls and traps as well. He's not as fluid in the hips as I'd like, but it is something he can improve on. While he needs a lot of work on footwork technique, he has the athleticism and foot quickness to be effective. As he develops and matures, he'll become much more efficient with his football.
Watt shows very good natural strength. He has good leg drive and never stops working. When he does it right, he has a very strong initial punch and strong hands. He's at his best working up to the second level and blowing players up. In order to dominate at the next level like he does in high school, he'll need to add a lot more lower body strength and develop his core. His upper body strength needs work as well.
I love the aggressiveness Watt brings to the game. He plays with a nastiness on the field I love to see in guards. He gives great effort and plays to the whistle. In fact often times he plays a bit past the whistle. Nothing cheap or dirty, but if he has the chance to bury a guy at the whistle he will take him down. For a smaller, athletic player he really seems to love the physical part of the game. The Glenbard West star seems to truly enjoy putting defenders on their backs. Talking about Watt's need to get stronger is a criticism at this point, but is one of the reasons I'm so high on him as a player. He is a tough, aggressive, and physical football player. Combine that with his athletic ability and he is a dominating high school football player. At the next level he'll need to develop the strength needed, but he has all the tools to be a very good football player. It's all about projection, and with Watt his skill set projects well to the next level.
Watt is physically gifted but needs work from a technique standpoint. Even in his stance he is raw and needs development. He is inconsistent in how he lines up and gets in bad position at times. His base is a bit narrow and he leans back too much. This causes him to have to stretch out his arm to reach the ground. He needs to flatten out his back a bit and try to be more parallel to the line of scrimmage. I'd like to see him get a bit more of a forward lean as well and widen out his stance.
At the snap Watt shows very good quickness and aggressiveness. He is able to get into his defender with good speed and is even faster when coming off to work to the second level. He plays with good leverage but again needs more consistency in this regard. At times he lifts up before snapping forward at the snap. He also shows a very good punch at the snap as well. He comes off hard and has a great leg drive. He never stops churning his feet and shows good power at the point of attack. As mentioned previously, he needs to develop his lower body strength. When that happens he has potential to dominate off the line.
Watt has good hand quickness and a very strong punch, as I have discussed earlier. But right now he doesn't use his hands nearly as often or effectively as he will need to in college. In the run game he cocks his hands back too far. His feet and body get to the spot before his hands do. This is a part of the reason he is a body player. Far too often he allows defenders to get into his chest. He also doesn't consistently get good hand placement and tends to get wide with his punches. He also doesn't extend his arms when he engages a defender. He's a mauler right now, and that is good thing. This allows him to get away with being a body player. In order to maximize his abilities in college he must develop his hand play and ability to fight with defenders.
As a run player Watt is truly dominant at the high school level at this point. He is powerful, has very good athletic ability, and is very physical. I talked earlier about how quickly he gets off the ball. This is most apparent in the run game. He gets a good initial burst off the line and gets into defenders with his good natural power. When he gets stronger and refines his technique, he'll be able to drive off against anyone. He uses his athletic ability and quickness to beat defenders to spots although he isn't consistent hitting the right targets. The Glen Ellyn native is at his best when working in space or up to the second level. His best clips are when he gets moving to the linebackers and just punishes them. I love watching Watt finish in the run game. He doesn't seem to want to drive working until his defender is on his back. I love that kind of attitude in an offensive lineman.
While he isn't a dominant pass blocker right now he has the tools to be very solid. Watt shows good quickness in pass protection and shuffles well. He is very good at mirroring and shadowing defenders. At times he takes a false step which will hurt him against bigger and faster players. He needs to be more efficient with his footwork. As a guard Watt will need to learn to anchor more. His base needs to widen out and he needs to sink his hips more. He'll face bigger players inside and more bull rushers. This will allow him to hold up better against those moves. He shows good hand quickness in pass protection as well. As discussed earlier he doesn't extend enough, he doesn't place well, and needs a lot of work with his hand fighting. But he has really good natural upper body strength and the hand quickness to be effective.
Right now Watt shows tremendous potential but he needs a lot of work. At this stage of his career he relies on his superior athletic ability, size, strength, and pure natural skills to dominate smaller high school players. In college he'll need to be stronger and play with better technique. He has a concept of what to do but isn't efficient enough or sound enough as a high school junior. But every "weakness" he has is something I'm not surprised to see in a high school junior. He will get bigger and stronger and he will continue to be coached on technique. Once he is able to put it all together he will go from a raw prospect to a potentially outstanding interior player in college.