ARLINGTON, Texas — The cornerback depth chart for the Texas Longhorns is wide open following the departures of Kris Boyd, Davante Davis, and PJ Locke III, but most of the discussion has focused on the players who were on campus during the spring, including former highly-rated recruits like sophomores Jalen Green and Anthony Cook.
Fellow sophomores D’Shawn Jamison and Kobe Boyce are also in the mix, leaving little room in the spotlight for an incoming recruit like Kenyatta Watson II.
Underrating and overlooking Watson would be a mistake, however.
At Big 12 Media Days last month, head coach Tom Herman was asked whether Watson had come in as prepared as any cornerback he’s coached.
And the answer was yes.
“I’m trying to think back in all my years — I’m sure there have been some that have matched it, but, yeah,” Herman said. “The thing about him, obviously his dad being a coach and the way that he was raised, a two-parent home and all of the intangibles are there, he had the length.”
Indeed, Watson’s father, Kenyatta, played for Boston College and then the Dallas Cowboys before getting into coaching, so the training that families typically have to outsource to professionals was available from Kenyatta himself.
As a result, Watson arrived on the Forty Acres with a much higher level of technical acumen than most cornerback prospects who enter college.
“I think I’m very good at playing man and zone coverages, but mostly man because of how long and fast I am,” Watson told Burnt Orange Nation last year. “Not a lot of [receivers] can get off of the coverage. I think for me as a player, that’s where I can excel at.”
Watson was good enough in coverage to record 39 pass breakups during his junior and senior seasons, along with five interceptions. However, how well he can come down with 50/50 balls will go a long way towards determining his upside, but all the other tools are there, including those intangibles.
Watson didn’t shy away from competition during his recruitment, either, despite the loaded depth chart at Texas. As he went through the process, it was about how the school fit him, not how difficult it might be to get on the field, a sign that Watson possesses uncommon maturity and the type of confidence that playing cornerback demands.
“As far as I was concerned, I really wasn’t concerned with who was or wasn’t recruited,” Watson said. “It was more about finding a place that’s going to fit me academically and athletically.”
During the recruiting process, Watson held more than 40 offers from virtually all of the national powerhouse programs, giving him all the options he could want as he looked for that fit, eventually choosing Texas over Notre Dame after a commitment to Florida State fell through when Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.
After pledging to the Longhorns, Watson stayed firm with his pledge and arrived in Austin over the summer, at which point the Texas strength and conditioning staff put him through the three main tests of athleticism for football players to get a baseline measure of his athleticism.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how well he tested in terms of his 40, shuttle, and vertical jump,” Herman said. “Outside of Tyler Owens and Jake Smith, he was a close third behind those guys from the measurables standpoint.”
The strong testing from Watson might have surprised Herman, but for Longhorns recruitniks who paid attention to the long, lean cornerback’s testing numbers from high school, his measurables after arriving in Austin weren’t a surprise at all. In fact, Watson ripped off a 4.50 40-yard dash, a 4.12-second shuttle, and a 45.2-inch vertical leap at an event for The Opening series.
He’s a freakish athlete who certainly deserves mention with the other freaks in the class, like Owens and Smith.
And since he has ideal length and size for the position at 6’1 and 190 pounds, as well as the necessary athleticism and intangibles, Watson should have a chance to make an impact on the depth chart. At the least, he’s a top candidate to earn a spot on special teams, especially on extra points and field goals — he blocked one of each as a senior.
The bottom line, though?
Sleep on Kenyatta Watson II at your own peril.