COLUMBUS — After a secret trip to Ohio State over the summer, it was pretty clear that Ryan Watts was serious about his Buckeyes interest, despite his commitment to Oklahoma.
When the cornerback from Little Elm (Texas) announced a plan to return to visit the Buckeyes again, this time in an official capacity, the buzz about a potential decommitment from the Sooners and a potential flip to Ohio State ramped up.
Two weeks after completing his September 20 official visit, Watts chose to reopen his recruitment, and it became immediately clear that the Buckeyes were in a position to land the talented defensive back. There were potential obstacles — including a planned official visit to Penn State — but there was no holding Watts back from Ohio State. He has now committed to the Buckeyes.
COMMITTED ‼️ pic.twitter.com/icpwMm1t68
— Ryan Watts📝 (@RyanwattsIII) October 13, 2019
The relationship he had built with Jeff Hafley and Ryan Day was the driving force.
“Coach Hafley’s background [was important],” Watts told Lettermen Row. “And the consistency in the effort they made whenever talking to me. They were always expressing how important I am to their recruiting class.
“Ohio State just felt like the best overall opportunity for me, especially with there being a great chance to compete and play early. It’s a ‘DBU’ type of school and the chance to play for Coach Hafley. He just made it evident that he would help me get to the best level of me there is. He has worked with other players with my build like Richard Sherman, in the past.”
Now Watt is in the Buckeyes recruiting class, officially. What does that mean for Ohio State?
Lettermen Row has all the angles on the Texas star and what his commitment means to the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and more.
What Ryan Watts gives Ohio State on the field
Ohio State loves long cornerbacks, and at almost 6-foot-3, Watts is most definitely that. That’s why the comparison to Sherman is common when analysts talk about his ceiling.
A talented athlete, Watts already runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.6 seconds. That numbers should have tenths shaved off quickly once he arrives in Columbus and is able to work with the Buckeyes strength and conditioning program. He has excellent feet and shows an ability to turn and run at the cornerback position as well. Physically, he’s a raw and exciting talent, but he’ll need to work on his willingness and fundamentals to step up and play the run as aggressively as he defends the pass.
The bottom line: He’s long-armed, nimble and has the ability to develop into a major Big Ten contributor. All the tools are there for him to be a multi-year starter for Ohio State — assuming he is willing to put in the work, as expected.
What pickup means for Ohio State 2020 recruiting class
The addition of Watts may bring to a close defensive back recruiting for Ohio State in the 2020 recruiting cycle. The country’s 19th-ranked cornerback becomes the fifth secondary prospect to pick the Buckeyes and Jeff Hafley this year, joining cornerbacks Lejond Cavazos and Clark Phillips and safety prospects Lathan Ransom and Cameron Martinez.
Watts, like linebacker/safety prospect Kourt Williams, is a big, versatile athlete who can fill multiple spots in the Buckeyes defense moving forward. But his primary position will be at cornerback. Whether or not he’s the final defensive back to commit to Ohio State in this cycle could ultimately depend on what a few current Buckeyes do. But for now, Watts should put a cap on that position.
Verbal commitment No. 24 for Ohio State in 2020, Watts pushes the Buckeyes to what looks to be an insurmountable lead as the Big Ten’s top-ranked recruiting class. Ryan Day’s first full group has a slight lead over LSU as the country’s third-best unit, although Ohio State has three more commitments than the Tigers do.
What makes Ryan Watts stand out
Physically, it’s the combination of length and athleticism that makes Watts a unique and intriguing prospect. It’s the way he’s handled loss during his life that makes him such an intriguing story off the field.
Watts lost his father in 2006 when he was just five years old. That’s the reason he wears No. 6 on the field. A week ago, as he was readying to announce his new college decision after making a difficult decision to decommit from Oklahoma, his grandmother passed away. He’s grown from the heartbreak, though, and finds strength in the memories of his family and with the aid of his stepfather.
“All I really remember is how much my father loved football,” Watts told Lettermen Row. “It pushes me to make him proud. I haven’t really broken down because my stepfather is a great father figure for me.”
It takes a special kind of emotional maturity for a young person to leave home for college, and Watts has that in spades.
Need more Ohio State recruiting #Stuff? Join the conversation below in the comments and sign up for Scarlet Sunrise, Lettermen Row’s morning newsletter that will get your day started with all the important Ohio State news you need to know. Prefer video? Follow Buckeyes football on YouTube with Lettermen Row. You can also get your recruiting fix by subscribing to Talking Stuff: The Ohio State Recruiting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher