Defensive end Jordan Watkins and "athlete" Jontrey Tillman are both from the SEC country, but are Stanford verbal commits with completely different recruiting profiles. Watkins, a Georgian, was offered by the entire SEC, while Tillman only has several reported offers from Stanford and a few smaller schools. Each will need time to blossom at the next level. Of the two, Watkins projects to see the field earlier, but if Tillman proves truly to be as lightning fast as advertised, the two-star prospect could definitely surprise.
Jordan Watkins, DE 6'5" 267lbs (Woodward Academy, College Park, GA)
Scout.com Ratings – 4*, #26 DE
Rivals Ratings – 4*, 5.8/6.1, #17 DT, #195 National Prospect, #14 Prospect in Georgia
ESPN Ratings – 4*, 79/100, #23 DE, #146 Regional Prospect, #33 Prospect in Georgia, No National Ranking
Rating the Ratings
Each of the major recruiting services seem to hold Watkins in a similar regard. He is a top-end defensive line prospect who was sought after by the entire SEC – a conference particularly known for its surplus of studs on the defensive front. ESPN doesn't have him ranked nationally, but that is because they only rank the top 150 prospects. Watkins would likely fall into the top-200 range as he does in his Rivals ranking.
Jordan Watkins' quickness off the ball is prominent throughout his video. Despite his size, he beats many would-be blockers as soon as the play is started with a quick get-off. He will add more moves to his arsenal on the next level, but he definitely gets the most out of his "swim" move as his athletic ability allows him to smoothly turn his shoulders to beat offensive linemen. When he is not beating offensive linemen with his quickness, he is engaging and controlling them using his long arms to keep them away from his body. When Watkins is locked up in a one-on-one battle with an offensive lineman, his strength shines. He can stonewall an offensive lineman with his hands and either drive him into the backfield or throw him off once the ball carrier declares a direction. His pad level on the snap of the ball is good and consistent for the most part.
Once the opposing lineman is dealt with, Watkins shows a number of very good attributes that allow him to finish plays. He would appear to have a very good motor. Evidence of that shows up on the video in the form of plays made in all regions of the field. Watkins has great short-area, straight line speed, showing a nice burst once he penetrates the backfield or disengages an offensive lineman. Both of those attributes feed into his ability to flatten down the line on runs away from his side and make plays in pursuit on either side of the line of scrimmage. He tackles fairly well, but in certain instances when he is pursuing at full speed, he fails to drop his hips and over runs the ball. When he does learn to drop his hips more, he will be able to become an even better finisher as he would be able to re-direct and catch quicker ball carriers.
Watkins is a very athletically-gifted prospect who is primed to be a major contributor on the next level. He will probably need a redshirt year to adjust to the speed of the college game and the strength of college offensive linemen. Adjusting to the speed will require his being able to change direction faster by dropping his hips more so he can react to ball carriers. Adjusting to opponents' physical strength will be less about technique for him and more about simply getting used to handling higher-level competition. Watkins should be in the Cardinal defensive line rotation by the middle of his second year.
Jontrey Tillman, ATH 5'9" 175 lbs (West St. Mary High School, Baldwin, LA)
Scout.com Ratings – 2*, #204 ATH
Rivals Ratings – 2*, 5.4/6.1, No Rankings
ESPN Ratings – 2*, 74/100, #144 ATH, #616 Regional Prospect, #56 Prospect in Louisiana, No National Ranking
Rating the Ratings
The ratings for Tillman are consistently scant across the board. He has some great numbers and a penchant for big plays. However, it is harder to judge his skill given the level of competition. He is listed at 5'9", yet he looks to be the same size or taller than many of the opponents on his video. That he does dominate consistently at his level may be a reason to have him ranked slightly higher. To impress the services and be rated as a 3* he would likely have had to attend camps and have a decent to good showing there*. Despite his big-play ability in a great football state, it would be tough to rate Tillman much higher given his overall profile, though certain aspects of his game are definitely worthy of three stars.
Tillman is a compact, athletic prospect who looks to have pretty good speed. Most of his video shows him at running back, slashing through the line and taking off on long runs. In the open field he shows good quickness, and can give a very convincing dead-leg cut that leaves defenders grasping at air. He is also a tougher runner than his size would indicate. Tillman has reported at 10.43 100 meter dash time which is a top-notch time and suggests blazing speed. However, that type of straight-line speed is not always evident on the video as there are times one would expect him to pull away or beat a defender's angle of pursuit and it doesn't happen. It is possible that he does throttle down on some of his many breakaway runs, but it is also possible that his running may not translate as well to the field as one would think. As a defender and a receiver, Tillman shows very good ball skills. He adjusts well to the ball and can go up and catch it at its highest point. Also, he looks very comfortable catching the ball away from his body which bodes well for his prospects as a cornerback or a scat back.
Given Tillman's stature, agility and 100-meter time, his college position is likely cornerback. If he steps up to the college level showing the uncommon speed a 10.43 100-meter time would suggest, he could be a very good player once he learns to play against receivers who are much taller than he. Tillman could also work as a third-down back and use his quickness for draws and screens that will put him in space and allow him to fool defenders with his sharp cuts. Tillman's projections for playing time have a pretty wide delta given his size. If his speed translates at cornerback, he would likely start seeing significant time in his third year. If not, the thickening defensive back depth chart may be too much to overcome for him to be in contention for a starting position. Some feel he may have the ability to contribute early on kick returns.
Ed. Tillman may end up being a good indication of our staff's ability to identify "sleepers". Recent Scout.com "two-star" recruits who have outperformed expectations include Class of 2009 commits DE Ben Gardner and CB Terrence Brown, the outstanding junior corner who provided Stanford with its lone forced turnover in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl with a pick of Brandon Weeden's first pass attempt of the game.
Do you have a "premium" subscription to The Bootleg? If not, then you are seriously missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest, broadest, and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!