What Ryan Watts' Commitment Means for Ohio State’s 2020 Recruiting Class

By Zack Carpenter on October 13, 2019 at 7:24 pm
Ryan Watts
Ryan Watts (Gabe Brooks, 247Sports)

Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?

Ohio State earned its 24th commitment in the 2020 class on Sunday afternoon, as four-star cornerback Ryan Watts III out of Little Elm (Texas) High School chose the Buckeyes after he decommitted from Oklahoma on Oct. 2.


Watts is ranked as the No. 258 overall recruit in the country, the No. 19 cornerback nationally and the No. 41 prospect out of Texas. 

Let’s take a look at how Watts will impact the Buckeyes’ 2020 recruiting class.

On the field

Ohio State loves defensive backs who are physical in press-man coverage, and that's what makes Watts a high-end talent with potential to be a force in the Buckeyes' system by the time he's in his second season. 

He'll likely need a year to learn from Jeff Hafley, build strength in Mickey Marotti's program and work on his footwork and speed, but Watts has starter potential. 

At nearly 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds with a 38-inch vertical, Watts has the height, length and jumping ability to handle opposing receivers in one-on-one coverage.

He possesses natural instincts at the position and looks like he's playing smooth and effortlessly when he goes up against opposing Texas receivers. 

"(The Buckeyes) play a lot of press, and I feel with my size it fits me best," Watts told Eleven Warriors. "I’m able to get my long arms on wide receivers and disrupt timing on passes and cause havoc.

"Also, Coach Hafley coached Richard Sherman, who I’m similar in build too and (Hafley) wasn’t just there to be someone to have eyes on (Sherman) but really coached him and improved him to make him even better."

Watts could become one of Hafley's next cornerbacks who can thrive on an island in man-to-man coverage. With his length and stride combined with his 4.59 40-yard dash and 4.20 shuttle time, which will likely improve as he gets older and more polished, he'll be able to match up physically with big and fast receivers.

If he does get beat going downfield, his long wingspan should help him make up for it. He may not be a guy who snags interceptions at a consistent clip right away, but Hafley can help him evolve in that area.

What's exciting about Watts is his willingness to tackle, even though his tackling skills still need some work. Hafley should have no problem getting Watts to consistently rally to ballcarriers and become a refined tackler.

In the class

Watts coming to Columbus gives the Buckeyes a full allotment of cornerbacks for the 2020 class. And though their recruitment at defensive back is not necessarily finished, it does mean they will have a strong defensive backs class should they decide not to take another in 2020.

Watts is the 24th overall commitment in the class, 13th four-star commit and the fourth defensive back commit, along with corners Clark Phillips III and Lejond Cavazos and safety Lathan Ransom (Cameron Martinez, who is listed as an athlete, might also end up holding a spot in the defensive backfield as a Buckeye). 

As Eleven Warriors reported last week, former Miami commit Jaiden Francois is also coming for an official visit Nov. 23 for the Penn State game. 

Francois is a cornerback whom the Buckeyes could potentially add as one more defensive back in the class, with Francois most likely fitting best at safety behind Ransom and potentially Martinez, if the Buckeyes' staff believes Martinez fits best at safety. With Watts committing, though, Francois might no longer be a take.

Elias Ricks is another whom Ohio State will hold a spot for, though it's likely Ricks will not decommit from LSU.

With kicker Jake Seibert grayshirting, the Buckeyes still have room to add a few more players to their class of 2020, potentially four or five.

Their focus now is on grabbing a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs, Miyan Williams and Kevontre Bradford lead the way), defensive end (Tyler Baron and Xavier Carlton are the top targets) and a second quarterback (CJ Stroud the obvious choice there right now).

Off the field

Watts visited Ohio State in the summer and made an official visit for the Miami (Ohio) game on Sept. 21, and ever since then, the speculation of a decommitment and/or flip from Oklahoma ratcheted up. 

Though an immediate flip did not happen, it's pretty telling that a visit to Ohio Stadium for a nonconference game against an inferior opponent was still enough to sway one of the nation's top cornerback prospects. 

Watts said there wasn't necessarily a "turning point" in his recruitment, but his trip that weekend was critical.

"I love the coaching staff and the DBs in the room," Watts said. "When I took my visit there, everyone was just so genuine. I felt like I could fit right in."

The Buckeyes flipping Watts away from Oklahoma also continues pushing them up the ladder in the national recruiting rankings.

Jacolbe Cowan's commitment pushed the Buckeyes ahead of LSU after falling behind the Tigers briefly, and with Watts committing, it further cemented the program at No. 3 nationally. 

If the Buckeyes round out their class by getting Bradford, Baron and Stroud, it would put them at No. 2 nationally, right behind Clemson, if Clemson and Alabama remain pat.

Even if Ohio State was done with this class, however, Watts' commitment only further cements Hafley – who is now ranked as the No. 4 recruiter for the 2020 class by 247Sports – as one of the best recruiters in the country. And it gives Ryan Day an even stronger reputation with his first full class as head coach.

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