2016: Willie's Bullies Chronicling USF Football's Class of 2016 Series USF Football Recruiting Class of 2016

USF Class of 2016 Chronicle: S Craig Watts

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USF Class of 2016 Chronicle-S Craig Watts by Matthew Manuri (2048x1639) Second up in the USF Recruiting Class of 2016 Chronicle series is a St. Petersburg native who was highly sought after defensive back that held 41 offers from the biggest names in college football, including Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, and Notre Dame.

S Craig Watts (St. Petersburg, Fla.-Admiral Farragut Academy) USF NSD 2016 Profile Pic (1080x1080) USF Head Coach Willie Taggart and staff made this hard hitting Bay Area product a priority from the start, and jubilantly celebrated when the fax machine lit up on February 3rd and the signed letter of intent came rolling in from this heralded 4-star recruit (video below). USF defensive backs coach Alonzo Hampton spearheaded the recruitment of this player I believe will see the field in 2016: Admiral Farragut safety Craig Watts; a 6’0, 190 pound wide receiver punishing machine.

Maybe it was karma? Both of Watts’ high school coaches are USF Alumni, first under Gibbs High Head Coach Rick Kravitz, then under Admiral Farragut Academy Head Coach Ryan Hearn. Regardless, hats off to both Coach Taggart and Alonzo Hampton for utilizing the USF alumni connection to help reel in the Tampa Bay area standout. As a junior at Gibbs High School, Watts amassed more than 100 tackles. After playing varsity freshman through junior year under Kravitz, Watts opted to take his talents to Admiral Farragut Academy where the senior posted 87 tackles, two passes defended, two forced fumbles, and an interception under Hearn. {HUDL HIGHLIGHTS HERE}

Watts was named to 2015 Florida Class 2A All-State 1st Team Defense, and snagged seven tackles and forced a fumble in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl. The Admiral Farragut juggernaut was also named to the Tampa Tribune’s All-Pinellas defensive first team, ranked 10th on Bright House Sports Network’s top 25 list, and landed in the 86th spot in ESPN’s Class of 2016 Florida Rankings; joining fellow Bulls wide receiver Darnell Salomon (39th) and safety Josh Dunn (65th).

S Craig Watts Letter from Colorado (758x1024)Here’s how the Watts recruitment roller coaster unraveled: Decommitted from Wisconsin in July of 2015, committed to former USF commander-in-chief turned Colorado coordinator Jim Leavitt in September, only to flip from the Buffs in early January 2016. The 4-star defensive back tweeted on Jan. 18 with the caption, “BayMade, BayStayed, BayPlayed” to let Bulls fans know he was keeping his talents at home.

“It’s finally over, I made the right choice. I want to stay home and put on for my town and just have Tampa jumping because this year is our time to step up,” Watts said. “Coach Taggart had a lot to do with it, that and staying close to home,” Watts elaborated. “I have a great relationship with Coach Taggart and we’ve been talking every week. I’m going to get a chance to start next year and I’m going to work as hard as I can to do that. I want to help USF get to the top.”

Taggart said Watts fits the de facto husky spot vacated by Jamie Byrd to a tee, now called the striker in USF’s 4-2-5 defense. “That’s what they do, they strike people,” Taggart added. “[Watts] will be there at the striker position, him and Josh Dunn both.”

Watts joins a small class bursting at the seams with talent. “I was really impressed with the group they brought in this year,” CBS Sports Network’s recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of the Bulls’ 2016 class, which includes more than a dozen commitments. “I was really impressed with a lot of them.”

“These are guys that are definitely Southeastern Conference-type athletes,” Lemming said. “It’s a small class, hopefully they get more guys. But numbers-wise, this is one of their best classes in more than 10 years.”

“He [Watts] was one of those kids who, from day one, you sensed he really wanted to be here,” Taggart said. “When he was on campus, he was always smiling.” Willie Taggart and the USF coaching staff should be all smiles themselves after adding such a dynamic group of newcomers to one of the most electrifying rosters in USF history. Stay tuned Bulls fans, 2016 should be one for the record books.

by Matthew Manuri
Editor | SoFloBulls.com | @Mcknurkle

Craig Watts on National Signing Day

S Craig Watts National Signing Day at Admiral Farragut (581x459)

Recruiting Profiles and Highlights

Rankings ESPN 247 Comp Rivals Scout
Stars 3 3 4 4 3
Grade 79 88 89.03 5.8 N/A

ESPN Scouting Report

Size-Strength-Speed Has the good size and toughness you look for at the position and plays with a fast and physical style. Looks shorter on film than his listed measurables. Well-built and muscular with good pop on contact and playing strength. A quick first step and accelerates with nice pursuit speed to the ball.
Instincts/Recognition Plays in a rover/SS role. Is an instinctive prospect who plays his position and makes things happen. Is quick to read and react when defending against the run and pass; maintains proper leverage on the ball and isn’t fooled by misdirection or play action fakes. We see an aggressive football player who doesn’t sit back, rather a defender who takes direct angles to the ball.
Coverage Skills Shows very good closing burst and range to make plays near the line of scrimmage from a starting high-point/rover position. Can turn and carry routes vertically but flipping his hips to run in man-to-man with quicker slots may be a challenge at times. His plant and drive skill breaking forward is his best asset and he really explodes out of his pedal downhill. Will snatch the ball away showing good ball skills. Times his break accurately off the hash to get on top of routes or when breaking on intermediate routes. Flow and burst to close on the ball coming forward is very impressive.
Run Support Is a very physical run defender who gets off the mark and is accustomed to playing close to the line of scrimmage. Has the initial quickness and burst needed to create havoc, blitzing the quarterback inside or off the edge. Can avoid with his tight space explosiveness, stacking the inside run. Is very quick moving through traffic, showing outstanding range and lateral playing speed to the sideline.
Bottom Line Watts is a nickel linebacker in a safety body. Will need to increase strength and bulk to remain in same role at the next level. Is a better run stopper than coverage guy. We like his demeanor and instincts and he plays with passion. Has power five ability.
Notes Decommitted from CU in January 2016. Committed to Colorado in September 2015. Decommitted from Wisconsin July 2015… Committed to Wisconsin June 2015… Previously attended Gibbs High School.

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