Since he was hired last February, Nebraska defensive line coach John Parrella has been on the hunt for “war daddies” to place along his line. Following Nebraska’s thrilling victory over Oregon, Parrella can add another war daddy to his troops in the form of Deiontae Watts. Watts, a 6-3, 305 pound nose guard out of Plano, Texas, committed to Nebraska early Sunday afternoon. Watts is Nebraska’s second defensive tackle commit in the 2017 class, joining Deontre Thomas. As a junior, Watts anchored the Plano East defensive line, helping the Panthers to a 7-4 record and make the Texas Class 6A playoffs.
Watts is considered a 4-star recruit by Scout, while Rivals and 247 currently list the big man as a 3-star recruit. Scout currently lists Watts as the No. 22 defensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 3 defensive tackle in the entire state of Texas. Rivals currently lists Watts as the No. 35 defensive tackle prospect in the nation, and 247 lists Watts as the No. 36 defensive tackle prospect in the nation and the No. 52 overall prospect in the state of Texas.
Who Else Was Interested
Three-hundred-pounders that move like Watts don’t exactly grow on trees, so naturally Watts had a very impressive offer list, with 18 FBS schools throwing their hat into the ring. While recruiting powerhouses like USC, Ole Miss and Texas all tossed their hat into the ring, it appeared that Nebraska’s main competition for the talented defensive tackle was Bob Stoops and Oklahoma. Nebraska did great work to secure Watts first official visit for the Oregon game, and Watts fell in love with the electric game day atmosphere and committed the next day.
Watts measures in at 6-3 and 300 pounds. He is built like the prototypical nose guard, as he has a barrel chest and a powerfully built lower body. While Watts is already a big man, he still has plenty of room to fill out in his upper body, as he can easily carry 320 pounds on his frame. With all nose guards, Watts will have to be diligent to avoid adding bad weight to his frame, which shouldn’t be a problem as long as he embraces Mark Phillip and his conditioning program. By the time he is finished filling out, I would expect Watts to measure in at 6-3 and in the 320 pound range.
1. His natural size and strength. High school offensive linemen simply aren’t going to move Watts off the ball one-on-one, as the young man has the natural size and strength defensive line coaches dream of. While he will need to hone his technique to continue to be as unblockable in college, Watts shows a tantalizing set of natural tools to play the nose position.
2. His quickness off the line of scrimmage. Watts isn’t going to win any 100-yard dashes, but he shows startling quickness of the line of scrimmage from his defensive tackle position. While he isn’t always consistent with it, Watts shows that he can explode low off the snap and bury opposing offensive linemen before they can get set and attempt to block them. This allows him to disrupt opposing blocking schemes and pursue the ball carrier, another area where he shows surprising speed and quickness for a man his size.
3. His pass rushing ability. For the most part, nose guards aren’t typically great pass rushers, but Watts shows flashes of being a very effective pass rushing presence up the middle. Watts understands his role as a pass rusher from the nose position, as he does a good job of staying square and pushing the opposing offensive linemen back into the pocket and into the quarterback’s face. When Watts is allowed to play one gap, he shows good quickness and does a decent job of attacking half a man on his way to the quarterback. Watts also shows violent hands when working a rush move from his defensive tackle spot.
4. His potential. Watts is just scratching the surface at this point, as he has all the tools you look for in a great defensive tackle, he just hasn’t put it all together quite yet. As long as Watts can stay in shape and hone the finer points of defensive tackle play (pad level, motor, etc.) he’ll be a good defensive tackle. He has too much natural talent not to.
1. His pad level. Watts is almost always the biggest, strongest guy on the field when he plays; because of this, he has been allowed to get away with some bad habits. The most glaring issue when watching Watts on film is his pad level, as he tends to play too high and attempt to simply outmuscle opposing linemen, which forces him to play from a less powerful and less athletic position. Watts has gotten away with this flaw so far due to his impressive size and strength, but good collegiate offensive linemen will expose this flaw in his game. Watts needs to really work on keeping his shoulders down if he wants to reach his impressive potential.
2. His motor. There are times on film when Watts is all but unblockable, as he explodes out of his snap low and drives opposing linemen into the backfield, but on other plays he seems to disappear. The problem is that Watts doesn’t always maintain his energy level from one play to the next, as he appears to take plays off occasionally. Watts needs to bring his full intensity level on every snap if he wishes to become a great defensive tackle, as he won’t be able to coast on any plays while Coach Parrella is around.
3. Keeping good weight on his frame. This isn’t a weakness as much as it is something to keep an eye on going forward. Watts has the perfect frame to play nose tackle for Nebraska as long as he can stay in shape. Offensive and defensive linemen always need to be careful about their diets and exercise routines in order to reach their full potential, as they can easily eat their way out of a job if they’re not careful. As long as Watts embraces the Mark Philipp training program, he will be fine, but with all 18-year-old kids, it’s something to watch out for.
Absolutely huge recruiting victory for John Parrella, who continues to prove that he was the right man for the job. Parrella went into Plano, Texas, the heart of the Big 12 recruiting footprint, and wrestled one of the top defensive linemen in Texas away from the Longhorns, Aggies, and Sooners, absolutely incredible job.
Watts is one of the top 30 defensive tackles in the nation already, but his potential is what makes him a slam dunk for me. As long as he can hone the little things in his game (pad level, motor, etc.) Watts will be a quality contributor for the Big Red. His natural size and strength as well as his quickness off the line of scrimmage make him a defensive line coach’s dream. I think in a perfect world, Watts would redshirt and hone his craft for 2018, but Nebraska’s lack of depth at the nose guard position may give him an opportunity to see the field as a true freshman backing up Mick Stoltenberg. If Nebraska can add one more defensive tackle commit, possibly Damion Daniels, than this will be the most impressive defensive line class Nebraska has signed since 2005, when it signed Ndaumukong Suh.
College Comparison: Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson
Pro Comparison: New York Giants nose guard Johnathan Hankins