Junior to watch - Jabari Watkins

Jabari Watkins is a 6-6, 310-pound lineman from Kent (Wash.) Kentridge, and Jabari will definitely be one of the top players to watch for the 2003 prep football season, but for those of us looking for the top juniors from last year, Jabari's name never came up. Well, after transferring from Auburn-Riverside and sitting out a year due to that transfer, Watkins is ready to re-establish himself as one of the top linemen in the state.

"It was really good there," Jabari said of his time at A-R. "As a 10th grader I was all-league honorable mention. At one point I was grabbin up to 5 tackles a game, but things just didn't click with the coaches there.

"Even though we didn't win a lot of games there, I was the big guy at school. I got my job done, so I was happy. I was satisfied."

There are some misconceptions about Jabari's transfer that he wants to set the record straight on. "Basically I was ineligible because they ruled I was going to Kentridge for athletic reasons, but the reality was that it was because of family," he said. "I went to live with my Dad.

While he is disappointed last year didn't turn out the way he hoped, Watkins used it as a springboard to concentrate on school. "The year off of football definitely helped me academically," he said. "I have a good feel now for what needs to be done." He also just threw the shot 53 feet, winning the SPSL title and also earning field athlete of the year over another great athlete, Joey Henley.

Jabari has the type of frame and mentality that will take him a long ways on the football field. And coaches were taking notice even when he was at A-R. "Even before I left Auburn-Riverside, I had schools asking about me," he said. "Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. And the cool thing about this past year was that, even though I didn't play at all I still was getting a lot of love, so that was great."

There's no question colleges knew about Jabari. The difficult thing was trying to find him. Well, he's back on the scene and ready to tackle the competition and the recruiting process head on. In his words, "I can't wait to play this next year. Nobody's gonna be able to take it away from me. Me and Brett (Pearce) are on the same side, so it's going to be great."

There are some other things that put Watkins above the rest besides his size. "I would say intensity and adrenaline. For instance, in the weight room I'm not really loud, but on the field I can get loud, get pumped. But I don't snap. I play focused."

And while he thinks offense will be his meal ticket for the future, Jabari is a team player. "I'll play wherever they put me," he said. "John Gardenhire is a good friend of mine, and he had a chance to play DB at Washington and play, but he didn't want to do that. I just want to get on the field. Doesn't matter where I play."

Watkins runs a 5.2 40, benches 325, power cleans 255 and squats 465. "That's due to my knee having some problems," he said of his squat mark. "Before that I was over 500. But the knee is great now."

Jabari attended Washington's junior day. "It was really good," he said of the experience. "Rick Neuheisel is a great coach and the campus is great. I've been to U-Dub quite a bit. It's a big campus. I've seen a few of the facilities there, like the science facilities and all of the medical buildings."

This coming weekend he'll be going to Oregon State, and he's also planning on going to Oregon at some point. "On June 7th I'm going to Colorado," he said. "And I want to visit Montana. Coach (Bobby) Hauck is really cool. I like the campus there and how things are set up. They are hard core about their football."

Jabari also said that he'll be attending Washington's spring game, as well as the Seattle NIKE camp.

As of now, Watkins has not received a scholarship offer. Expect that to change. "I have family in the east and family in the south, but I really want to go to a school where my coaches can come and see me play," he said. "That's important to me."

The Colorado Buffaloes are Watkins' number one college right now. "Washington's right there too," he said. "Things are picking up with them. I've gotten three letters from them in the past two weeks."

Jabari Watkins Scout Profile

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