Everyone is familiar with blue chip defensive end Myles Garrett of the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies defense. But there is another name that has the potential to start commanding a lot of attention this spring: Armani Watts.
Watts has been a vital piece on the back end for the Aggies, complimenting free safety Justin Evans well in coverage and allowing for multiplicity across the back end. Watts is a true junior who led the team in tackles during the 2015 campaign with 126. Watts, the first Aggie DB to log 100+ tackles since 2003, should have had the country on notice then. If he wasn’t on your radar then, he needs to be now.
Dominating performances throughout his career
Watts has the ability to take over football games; he’s done it a number of times throughout his tenure in College Station. He’s logged double-digit tackles six times in his 31 career games, including a 20-tackle performance against Mississippi in 2015. Watts single-handedly kept the Aggies in their bowl game against Louisville last year, forcing two fumbles on 2016 Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson with devastating hits.
While his tackle numbers are down from his 2015 pace, Watts has been a force the entire year. In five contests against Power 5 competition (UCLA, Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee), Watts has logged 35 tackles, a sack, 4.5 TFL, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two passes defensed and an additional two interceptions.
Stats translate to skills
All of the stats in the world don’t necessarily mean a player can cut it at the next level (Ex. Wright, Scooby). In Watt’s case, it simply stands as the tip of the iceberg. His on the field production provides a glimmer of excitement that upon further inspection proves to be a glimmering diamond of explosiveness and controlled violence at the safety position. See if you can’t identify Watts on this play:
There’s plenty to pick apart on this play alone, much of which does a wonderful job encapsulating Watts as a player. Start with the read and mental process time.
Watts has diagnosed the quick through and built up a full head of steam in two yards, attacking downhill before the ball is even out of QB Sean White’s hand. By the time the ball reaches its target, Watts has traveled seven yards on a catch and shoot.
Furthermore, he’s take a perfect angle in pursuit to collision the receiver. Note how Watts puts his head to the sideline; putting his head to the side in which momentum is carrying his target. And then there’s the hit itself. Do we need to get into specifics there?
Each of these sampled plays comes from his 2015 campaign. There’s consistency with angles. There’s consistency with the pop of the pads at first contact. This is a legitimate safety prospect with a strong chance to have his name called in the first round of the NFL Draft, if he elects to pursue that path this fall.
This weekend will be must see television
Watts had one of his best performances of the year against the Crimson Tide last year with 10 total tackles and a TFL. This year’s match up will again feature the two teams meeting as top-10 ranked teams. So while it’s easy to tag the game as one to watch strictly for the ramifications it will hold for the SEC and College Football Playoffs, don’t gloss over the heavyweight prospect match ups at hand.
Surely Myles Garrett and Cam Robinson in the trenches is going to be a heavyweight fight, but don’t overlook the chess match that Watts will have to play both in space against Calvin Ridley/ArDarius Stewart/O.J. Howard and as run support for the Alabama offense.
Tune in and hop on board the Watts train before it pulls out of College Station.