If you missed the news that's now been pushed down the front page, Michigan received commitments from Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy teammates Brandon Watson (CB) and Freddy Canteen (WR/SLOT) this morning; both players were offered at Michigan's camp two weeks ago.
Canteen's commitment post went up earlier this afternoon. Now it's time to take a look at Watson, who—like his teammate—currently has a large disparity between his camp performances and his recruiting rankings.
I'm writing on a Saturday and these guys are from the same school so, yes, this is word-for-word what was in Canteen's Hello post.
I'm moving this section up to the top because it'll help explain everything below. I'll also be lazy (again) and blockquote what I posted in a previous recruiting roundup:
Both prospects attend Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy, which is essentially this sport's answer to hoops factory Oak Hill Academy—the academy itself is built entirely around the football program and attendees take their coursework through a larger online program. Their quarterback is David Sills, whom you may remember as the (then-)13-year-old who committed to USC, and now you exactly why USC offered such a player so early: his father, David Sills IV, is the founder of ECA. The program only played three games in 2012, as five opponents cancelled planned matchups, so what you see above—serious technique work (that's Canteen talking at the start of the video)—is what largely constituted their season, and now they're hitting the camp circuit very hard.
As ECA coach Dwayne Thomas explained to ESPN's Chantel Jennings after his players' commitments this morning, their under-the-radar status can be attributed to factors even beyond the lack of a real season last year:
So while the headquarters for Eastern Christian Academy is in Maryland, the two boys are actually from Delaware, which has been a reason why the two prospects haven’t had a ton of attention, according to their coach.
“Being that we’re from Delaware, a lot of coaches don’t get a chance to see them in the spring because there is no spring football,” Thomas said. “So as they get out and get to camps, schools get a chance to see what their talent is.”
Camps have been the only real chance these players have had to get themselves noticed, what with the mostly-cancelled season and no spring ball.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
|NR CB||3*, #56 CB||NR CB||2*, 79, #120 CB||3*, #116 CB|
Watson is well off the four-star pace on Rivals (last four-star CB ranked #29) and is either unranked or, in 247's case, might as well be, on the other three services. His listed height ranges from 5'11" (Rivals, ESPN) to 6'1" (Scout) with 247 splitting the difference; his weight is between 180 and 190 pounds. Reports out of Michigan's camp unfortunately don't provide a ton of clarity here; Scout had him at 6'1", 190, while Rivals called him 5'11", 185 (in the same article that listed Canteen at a probably-exaggerated 6'3", FWIW).
Watson first earned mention on the camp scene as a rising junior last summer, earning the #6 top performer spot from Rivals' Josh Helmholdt at an NLA 7-on-7 camp after making several big plays ($):
Auburn commit Jahmere Irvin-Sills was holding down the cornerback position opposite Watson on Sunday, and few teams were throwing Irvin-Sills' way. That gave the 6-foot, 175-pound Watson his opportunity to make a statement, and he did just that by recording several interceptions on the day, including two in one game. ECA eventually won Sunday's New Level Athletics National Championship game over Michigan Elite, and Watson's ability to make plays on his side of the field was a key factor in that win.
Then came this spring's PA SWAG 7-on-7 competition, where Watson more than held his own against four-star Penn State WR commit Chris Godwin, earning the #2 top performer spot (behind Godwin, interestingly) from 247's Tom Loy...
While most knew about Watson heading into the weekend, nobody expected the show that he put on. The 6-foot-0, 187-pounds cornerback rarely got beat and won the matchup against Godwin in the semi-finals. He displayed terrific ball skills, great speed and excellent footwork. Watson holds offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Temple and Rutgers with heavy interest coming from Syracuse and Maryland.
...and the top overall spot from Rivals, which gave quite a glowing review of his game ($):
Whenever the football was in the vicinity of Watson, it was either getting intercepted or it was going to be an incompletion. As Flash Training worked toward another 7 on 7 title, Watson was dominant in coverage. He consistently got a good punch at the line of scrimmage in man coverage, and when playing off he closed quickly on the football. As receivers attempted double moves, Watson ran with the opposition step for step, showing great change of direction. The most impressive part of Watson's day was successfully defending a number of jump balls in the end zone against taller receivers.
It's worth noting that four-star WR/S (and early Michigan offer recipient) Montae Nicholson finished third on Rivals' list at the same event, while offered receiver K.J. Williams came in at #11 (four spots behind Canteen, incidentally).
Watson showed off his physical play in earning an offer at Michigan's technique camp; Kyle Bogenschutz's camp report makes him sound like the big, aggressive type of corner that the Wolverines have put a major emphasis on targeting ($):
Watson was by far the most physical corner at the camp Tuesday and brings physical tools to the table that most high school defensive backs just aren’t privy to. 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, it’s hard to believe Watson only had four offers to his name heading into Michigan’s camp, but with several pass break-ups made throughout the day, the Wolverines threw their name into the hat. Watson showed nice discipline against the wide receivers, timing his break in order to avoid a penalty and never being burned deep in press coverage, adding speed to his above average size.
There's no mention of Watson's hips, often an area of weakness in bigger corners; his ability to stick with receivers on deep routes leads one to believe he can turn and run with enough fluidity to allow his size and speed to take over. His high school coach, for what it's worth, cites hip flexibility as one of Watson's strengths:
“Freddy Canteen is, in my opinion, the best route-runner in the country. I think every camp that he goes to, people get a chance to find that out,” Thomas said. “And Brandon has this unique combination of speed, strength and hip flexibility that will allow him to be physical with the big receivers, and he’s agile enough to run and defend the smaller receivers as well.”
Without anything in the way of game film (or games, really) to go on, Watson's ability in run support is a mystery. The Wolverine's crew did mention his "thick build" at Michigan's camp, so he should be able to hold up physically on the edge; with his body type, it'd be ideal if he could play boundary corner, but he'll only be able to do so if his run defense is up to snuff.
With what little info we have to go on, it looks like Michigan has picked up another big, physical corner to add to the ever-growing pile of big, physical corners on the roster. If Watson truly has shutdown coverage ability, too, then he should be poised for a significant jump in the rankings.
Watson's other offers came from Boston College, UConn, Maryland, Rutgers, and Temple — the same list at Canteen's minus Hawaii and Tennessee.
Watson's high school coach mentioned a very intriguing potential offer to Sam Webb($) after his two pupils committed today, as well:
“In Brandon Watson you get this extremely extremely gifted athlete who can run and is physical. He can run with the quickest receivers and can be physical and bump it up with the big receivers. He did well at the USC camp. Coach (Clancy) Pendergast told me that he was going to offer Brandon this week. They were going to have a meeting sometime this week to evaluate the talent from the camp and they were going to offer him, but as we were riding back Brandon said, ‘I think I just like Michigan better.’"
If that's true—and there's little reason to believe his coach is making that up—then Watson's offer sheet was poised to expand significantly before his Michigan commitment.
I can't find stats on Watson; again, his team played three games last season, so this section wasn't going to be very telling anyway.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a time of 4.5 seconds; that's high-end speed without a second decimal place or a cited source, so it gets four FAKEs out of five. Watson is said to have good speed but I haven't seen him called a burner.
I can't find high school highlights, a Brandon Watson Hudl page that belongs to this particular Brandon Watson (0-for-4 in that regard), or anything more than one clip of him running drills from a post-camp interview:
That video was posted just a few days ago, and at least confirms that Watson is very well-built for a high school corner. Otherwise... please play an actual season, ECA, and make sure to film it.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'm punting on any sort of prediction given the flimsier evidence than usual. Here's what the coaches told Watson when they gave him his offer, per 247's Steve Lorenz:
"The coaches told me to imagine myself coming out of the tunnel in a Michigan uniform," he said. "They told me to imagine me playing corner on one side and Jabrill Peppers playing on the other side. Being in the Big House was an overwhelming experience. I've seen it on TV, but being there in person was really great."
With Peppers probably destined for the boundary corner spot (after an apprenticeship at nickel, potentially), that would put Watson at field corner. Watson could also play that slot corner spot if he can hold up in run support and show some blitzing ability.
A few people have been spooked by the nature of ECA, especially from an academic perspective—though, rest assured, Hoke and Co. have done their due diligence in making sure these guys will pass muster with admissions. From the same Sam Webb article cited in the offers section comes this choice quote from ECA's coach:
“The first thing is Michigan is getting is two great kids,” he said proudly. “They’re kids that you’re never going to read about in the paper in a negative way. They’re kids that are not going to miss class. Kids that are not going to be a disruption to any program. Kids that are extremely positive and extremely focused on being the best that they could possibly be in every aspect of their life. Kids that I would let date my daughter if she was of age. So you’re getting high quality individuals with extremely extremely high work ethic.”
[checks off the "glowing character quote" box]
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Watson, unlike some of Michigan's other defensive back commits, seems like a pure cornerback prospect. That gives them two corners in the class assuming Peppers sticks there, so bringing in a player who could project to safety becomes the big priority for recruiting in the secondary. The pipe dream prospect here is five-star CA ATH JuJu Smith, who's scheduled to take an official visit for the Ohio State game. The more realistic options are four-star PA ATH Montae Nicholson and IL CB/S Parrker Westphal.
Other needs in the class going forward include one more offensive lineman (probably a tackle), a couple defensive linemen (you all know the main targets there), and another linebacker. Michigan could also look to take a running back, but unless an elite talent wants to commit they could just as easily use that scholarship elsewhere — there's not a big need to bring one in this year, especially with the Wolverines in very good shape for a couple top 2015 backs in Damien Harris and Mike Weber.