Texas’ 2019 recruiting class grew to five on Tuesday when four-star defensive back Kenyatta Watson II chose the Longhorns over Notre Dame and 38 other offers. The Georgia product was recruited as a cornerback by Texas and ranks as the No. 163rd-ranked overall prospect in the country, per the 247Sports composite. He’s the first defensive back to pledge to Texas in the 2019 cycle.
Watson took his official visit to UT this past weekend.
“I just had to follow my heart,” Watson said. “The city of Austin and my comfort level with coach (Jason) Washington and coach (Tom) Herman was a big reason. “I liked Texas’ defensive scheme. It was a better fit for me and the fact that the Big 12 conference passes the ball a lot.”
Watson began his recruiting process in 2017 with an early commitment to Jimbo Fisher and Florida State. He picked up an offer from the Longhorns on Nov. 14 and immediately placed Texas among his top schools. The 6-2, 187-pound prospect was viewed as a safety by most and provides versatility in the secondary due to his ability to play multiple positions.
Skill set: Watson is a similar player to 2018 signee Caden Sterns. Both were considered safeties whom Texas recruited as cornerbacks, and both can transition back to safety if cornerback doesn’t work out at the collegiate level. Watson is a physical player who excels as a center fielder in the defensive backfield. He’s shown the ability to cover ground and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in traffic against the run.
His frame is intriguing at cornerback because of his long arms and tall frame. Watson can handle bigger receivers and move into the nickel against big packages to blitz or cover tight ends in the slot. Big 12 offenses utilize different packages to create mismatches and he is the type of defender who can shadow size mismatches in the passing game.
His future position doesn’t matter. Watson will find his spot once on campus. He’s a play maker with football instincts and a high on-field IQ. Watson is a polished prep player from a football factory at Grayson High in Loganville. He faces top competition every day in practice. His father is also a football coach.
Immediate impact: Assuming Watson is a true cornerback prospect, Texas landed one of its top priorities at the position in a tricky cycle to recruit corners. Signing the likes of Anthony Cook, Jalen Green, Sterns and D’Shawn Jamison will make some defenders shy away from the competition. A player like Watson, who resides far away from those players’ reputations, will arrive on campus unfazed by the names ahead of him on the depth chart.
The need for defensive backs will never fade for the Longhorns. The modern defense is becoming a nickel package and recruits talk a lot about Texas’ plan to play six defensive backs as a base defense. That requires big defensive backs who can cover and help against the run game. Watson, like Sterns, provides that versatility.
Fitting into the program: Watson provides unique length to the cornerback position. He’s a long-armed, rangy defensive back who is strong enough to excel in man-to-man coverage. Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando wants his defense to be aggressive. That’s best achieved with cornerbacks and safeties who can be placed on an island because that frees up the second level to rush the passer.
Texas has consistently added out-of-state recruits in each cycle under Herman and Watson is another one cherry-picked by the UT staff. Two of Texas’ current five 2019 commitments play outside the state.
Recruiting at the position: The Longhorns want to sign three more corners. Two elite players would do the trick if Texas wants to wait until 2020 to restock the position. Watson fills one of those spots.
The focus at the position now shifts to Spring Dekaney four-star prospect Marcus Banks. Banks is the No. 12-ranked player on the initial 2019 Fabulous 55 and the top in-state target for the Longhorns at the position. Texas also is in the mix for Chris Steele (California), Derek Stingley (Louisiana) and Chester Kimbrough (Louisiana).