2014 Recruiting: Brandon Watson Comment Count

Brian April 16th, 2014 at 3:36 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles.

Elkton, MD – 5'11" 185

[Bryan Fuller]

Scout 3*, NR overall
#41 CB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#60 CB, #20 MD
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#52 CB, #22 MD
24/7 3*, NR overall
#64 CB, #20 MD
Other Suitors BC, UConn, Rutgers, Maryland, Tenn(?), USC(?)
YMRMFSPA poor man's DeMarcus Milliner
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace
Notes Eastern Christian (Freddy Canteen)


Given the choice between kicking off this series with the most celebrated recruit in the history of Michigan football—seriously, Michigan has never recruited a player as highly ranked as Jabrill Peppers in the ten or so years people have been celebrating recruits—and one of the few players eligible for sleeper status, let's go with the sleeper.

He is Brandon Watson, and he's not only overshadowed by Jabrill Peppers but his own danged teammate pressing to start despite being fresh off the turnip truck. But even though Watson is a holy lock to redshirt, his recruitment does have implications for Michigan's 2014 season.

That's because Watson is a man-to-man pressing machine. Give him your suit and it will come back so flat it looks two dimensional. Give him a wide receiver and he will jam him into the sidelines, possibly no matter what the call is.

You get the impression he and Brady Hoke could play a hilarious joke on the media one day where they switch places and nobody notices. Here's Watson dropping Hoke's second or third favorite word three times in a brief window:

At Michigan camp, I showed off my physicality," he said. "I was a bigger corner than most of the guys there. I was teachable I think. I think I did everything to the best of my abilities, and coach noticed and liked it.

"I'm physical at the line. If the quarterback's looking for a route that's deep, and the receiver can't get off the line, that's definitely noticeable. I think I'm just real physical, but I'm fast so I can keep up with people as well."

Watson will pull off the Brady Hoke half of the switcheroo perfectly. The hard part is the other bit.

Thanks to the unusual nature of Eastern Christian Academy, Watson's junior year consisted of three games before the local authorities pulled the rug out. As a result the meticulously assembled junior film that is the backbone of internet clips does not exist. The pickings are slim. The clip above is a minute long and consists of clips from a single game in which he's not even thrown at.

Even so it does confirm that ECA lined Watson up one inch from the receiver's nose consistently and dared the opponent to do anything about it. Usually they did not. It is probably not a coincidence that the clip looks like an even more aggressive version of Michigan's spring game.

While the abbreviated 2012 ECA season limited scouting opportunities for Watson, ECA did hit up a few 7 on 7 events and most recruiting services did stop by an ECA game in 2013 to fill in data they did not have.

Watson's best moment was a 7-on-7 dubbed SWAG in which he was a main reason his team reached the title game. Rivals named him the best player in attendance:


Whenever the football was in the vicinity of Watson, it was either getting intercepted or it was going to be an incompletion. … 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.

247 placed him second behind future Penn State commit Chris Godwin, but even so they say he won his matchup against the previously "borderline unstoppable" Godwin:

2) CB Brandon Watson – Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian 
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 also drew mention from Rivals in a 7-on-7 as a rising sophomore:

[Touted guy opposite Watson gave] Watson his opportunity to make a statement, and he did just that by recording several interceptions on the day, including two in one game.

When sites got around to see him play actual football, they sounded impressed. 247 caught ECA versus Maplewood (TN), which ended in a 60-20 ECA blowout. Watson had a spectacular over-the-shoulder-and-then-break-11-tackles pick six called back on a "questionable" pass interference call and generally shut off whoever he lined up against. A catch was detected, though not of the receiving variety:

Watson played bump man coverage all night and was physical on the line of scrimmage. His receiver did not have a catch all game. Watson showed good speed and quickness, as well as a fluid hip-turn. He has been coached well. Watson has a nice break on the ball and showed good reactive quickness. He has a nice build and looked to have excellent strength. Watson’s only concern is his height, standing about 5-foot-10.

"But he was six foot not two blockquotes ago!" you angrily exclaim. I know, man. I know. We'll get through it.

Scout, the source of the quick clips above, saw ECA versus the seemingly-misspelled Champagnat Catholic in their season opener:

physical and was able to flip his hips and run with the receivers. He was comfortable playing press coverage, and he rarely let the receiver release and get into his route with any kind of rhythm. He also had a very good interception (not on tape) in which he closed very quickly on a ball thrown 20 yards down the field over the middle.

…definitely a kid who looks better in a game than in 7-on-7 contests. He was sensational, and by the end of the game it wasn’t even a question of whether Champagnat would challenge him. Receivers had no shot against him.

Elided, unfortunately, was the note that Champagnat (is it a champagne with gnats in it? Or a gnat addled with champagne, making a scene?) didn't have much of a passing game, as high school teams are wont to not have.

ESPN mentions his "good height and size" and praises him for being a "long, rangy defender"—"WELL, WHICH IS IT?" you thunder from a pulpit of stone and lightning—and generally praises his play:

Shows a long stride with good speed. Flashes recovery quickness to close separation.… Can turn and run with receiver but does show some tightness in the hips when having to make a sudden change of direction if in off man coverage. Will generally maintain balance and mirror receivers with his length from a trail position. … Displays the ability to match up and mirror receivers out on an island.

Sounds pretty good, and then…

Will most likely see recruitment from mid level BCS programs.

You really just cannot tell how much ESPN likes a guy not at the very top of their rankings by their scouting report.


2014 Elkton (Md.) ECA CB Brandon Watson -- 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.

This concludes scouting done by unbiased sources. The rest comes from ECA's coach, Dwayne Thomas, who gets in our The Pattern quote of the day, one that includes Canteen:

“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.”

That's a full Date My Daughter coach quote.

On the field, Thomas echoes the bits about bumping and physicality and whatnot:

“…. 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."

Another Thomas quote:

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.”

Since Watson enrolled early, we have another slab of data to look at… or at least we would if anyone talked about him. Watson mostly popped up in spring to talk about Canteen.

"He's a confident player, but that's good," Watson says. "The only time he trash talks, though, is when we're playing (video games)."

He spent the spring mostly playing nickel behind Countess, and was quiet during the game-type substance. 247's Steve Lorenz has said Watson had moved to safety a few times, but in the spring game the non-Jarrod Wilson role was fought over by the Hill/Thomas/Clark trio; that nickelback spot is kind of between the two. Positional clarity is going to be a ways off for Watson.

Anything that takes him away from his jam is going to require an adjustment period. At no point in his recruitment did the word "zone" surface. He'll probably have to learn what to do when you're more than a millimeter from the wide receiver.

Etc.: Thomas has a bit of Fred Jackson in him:

Sam Webb:  Is there a player in college or the pros that you can kind of compare him to?

Dwayne Thomas:  “Brandon would be a cross between Deion Sanders type that can run with any receiver.  But he is a physical guy like some of the physical corners that have played on the NFL and the college levels.

Deion Sanders, but physical!

Why a poor man's DeMarcus Milliner? I have to depart not only Michigan but the Big Ten for the most press-mad corner Michigan has encountered in recent times.

Milliner is the 6'2" five-star spider-beast who hurled Roy Roundtree into the first row during the Alabama game that started 2012 with a thud. He was a top ten pick several months later, and then turned out to be six-foot-even in the NFL. Watson is probably 6'0" like Milliner was 6'2", and he will try to duplicate the things Milliner did… probably with less success.

Guru Reliability: Low. Limited exposure due to junior year scheduling snafu, and while there are a couple 7 on 7s it doesn't appear like he was at Nike camps or the like.

Variance: Moderate. Played the position he projects to, got a lot of coaching, healthy. High floor. Ceiling, though…

Ceiling: Moderate. Did not wow anyone with that size and speed; big differrence between 6'1" and 5'10" here that seems to be on the shorter side.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Watson should at least be a capable player. Stardom doesn't seem super likely due to profile and lack of spring buzz.

Projection: With both starters and both backups from last year returning, Peppers incoming, and guys like Delonte Hollowell around, Watson should be the lockiest lock on the roster to redshirt. The only way he plays is if he gets drafted onto special teams, and that seems wasteful even for this redshirt-averse staff.

It doesn't get much easier in the near future. Michigan loses only Taylor and Hollowell from the secondary after this year, and even two years down the road Watson is likely trying to pass Jourdan Lewis, Channing Stribling, or Peppers to get significant playing time. This is of course possible; more likely is Watson putting in his special teams time until he can emerge as an upperclassman.

Watson is plausible, if not ideal, at safety and may get looks there if Michigan finds itself a bit short in the future.



April 16th, 2014 at 4:51 PM ^

"Personally," says one Cowboy, "I thought Kevin Smith was a better player." Whereas the other primary cornerbacks -- Smith, Larry Brown and Clayton Holmes -- embraced contact, Sanders was a feather duster. When he tackled, it was with the gusto of a 90-year-old woman.

"One time a running back ran a sweep toward him, and Deion dove half-hearted into the turf," says Case. "We're watching film the next day, razzing him pretty good. As serious as could be, he said, 'I saw that dude coming and I had to make a business decision.'"



April 16th, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

Best half a CB to ever play the game.

Few people threw at Deion because the book on him was don't fight ego with ego.  Throw at him and it'll probably be intercepted; run at him and he'll practically lay down a carpet for you.


April 16th, 2014 at 4:01 PM ^

People have been celebrating recruits for longer than 10 years.

Drew Henson was arguably more celebrated than Peppers.  The hype over Henson was huge.


April 16th, 2014 at 4:12 PM ^

I will never forgive the Yankees/Stienbrenner/Wife of Steinbrenner 

If Henson comes back for another year Michigan has a shot at a NC-that being said Navarre was stand up.


April 16th, 2014 at 4:55 PM ^

Why move a press corner to safety?  PT would be the dumbest reason to do it.

If he's lining up at safety at all I speculate it's to refine the parts of his game that need work -- zone coverage, tackling in space, reads and run support.  Coaches don't need to teach him a damn thing about press coverage by the looks of it.  When you're 10 yards off the line you can't press, so it's forcing him out of his comfort zone.  This is what coaches are paid to do.

Again, the purpose of practice is to get better at the stuff you're BAD at.  I don't think we can glean anything about starters or schemes from spring because we'll see TEs trying to block and press corners at safety because that's what Michigan needs to rep.  Granted you also practice your strengths but those are typically "maintenance" reps which take up far less time.


April 16th, 2014 at 5:26 PM ^

There are plenty of reasons you would move a press corner to safety.  One is because you have a lot of other good corners.  The other would be because you don't have a lot of good safeties.  If some combination of Peppers, Lewis, and Stribling are the starting CBs in a couple years, why not move Watson if he's a good safety?  In that instance, you wouldn't really be moving him from corner to safety, you'd be moving him from bench to safety.


April 16th, 2014 at 5:45 PM ^

I actually like Peppers better at safety, at least as an experiment, especially if Watson is as good at man coverage as prescribed.  Safeties are described as "best when boring" but that's really more like a very high floor.  They're involved in every play so it's very tough to take one out of the game.

We don't know much about Watson's game other than his press coverage, which adds a lot of uncertainty, so I could be way off.  But I maintain the most likely explanation given the evidence that we have is that Watson's playing safety not because he's a good safety, but precisely because he's a bad one and it's spring, and that's the best place for him to pick up the non-press parts of playing a DB.

We'll find out in August, I guess.


April 16th, 2014 at 5:55 PM ^

I know we don't know a ton about Watson's game, but we do know that despite him being the youngest CB on the roster, he's weighs the most.  That will change when Peppers show up, but Watson is already a decently built DB for a kid who should be a month away from prom.   That doesn't mean he'll be a good safety, but often times kids who have safety size, but CB skills are also good safeties.  


April 16th, 2014 at 5:32 PM ^

So....you knock ESPN for describing him as amazing and then saying he will only get mid level BCS offers.  Then you go and describe him as amazing and say he has a moderate ceiling and elicits only moderate excitement.......................................

Tyrone Biggums

April 16th, 2014 at 6:08 PM ^

A poor man's Dee Milliner is a better prospect at corner than we've had for a while with the exception of a few. I'd venture to say that his ceiling could be pretty high courtesy of his ECA teammate Freddy Canteen. I remember in one of the spring video clips Freedy being asked what was the reason he transitioned to spring football/college level speed so quickly and his response was something to the effect that he had been going up against Brandon everyday in practice at ECA. 


April 17th, 2014 at 10:34 AM ^

Didn't play school.

"He attended school for a very brief time. He failed to demonstrate much capacity for academic work; the brutal treatment that teachers meted out to students also worked against his settling in. By age eleven, he had decided that he preferred farm work to the world of books."


April 16th, 2014 at 8:45 PM ^

You don't play freshmen at safety if at all possible.  Then again, I note you didn't specify a timeframe.  Yeah, while this really depends on how our various DB recruits pan out, I wouldn't be shocked to see Peppers move to FS as a sophomore.  I think you can do more with talent at FS, especially if we've got others who can hold their own in coverage.  Problem is that they couldn't last season.  They were serviceable, but they couldn't stay with other teams' go-to receivers.

The hope here is that we have an answer -- particularly a single-coverage answer -- to other teams' #1 receivers, something we haven't had for a while (tho to be honest it's something teams rarely have).  On that note we have to remember there's also the possibility that Peppers will bust.  While I doubt that'll happen -- I think he'll at least be serviceable -- the lesson here is that there's no such thing as certainty when projecting high schoolers to the college game.  Even if Peppers turns out to be "merely very good", that's certainly welcome but it wouldn't be Charles Woodson 2.0.  Ironically, that may make it more likely Peppers plays FS.

Then again, everything I said about Watson might be wrong.  IF he's a serviceable safety, hey, why not play him at safety?  As much as I personally believe he's there to work on his overall game, the coaches could also be moving DBs around to A) see what they can do and B) try to fill our paper-thin safety depth.