The four-star wide receiver from Galion (Ohio) chose NU on Monday, which signified another 2014 recruiting victory. The class is nearly half full, and boasts multiple big-name prospects including Watkins and Clayton Thorson.
Of course, the major story–which sometimes makes sense–involves Watkins selecting NU over tens of other competitive offers.
(That is often misleading, as with the case of Jordan Thomas. The three-star safety committed so early that local Texas schools never had incentive to offer. That impacts star ratings and reputation, but Thomas is considered one of the most likely immediate impact players in the class.)
The Wildcats ultimately beat out Michigan State to land Watkins, but it's hard to fault the Spartans considering they too outdueled several Big Ten schools.
This decision speaks as much to the prospect as it does to the Wildcats' recruiting profile. Watkins considered the value of relationships and barely accepted the attention from latecomers. He visited NU earlier this year, but carefully considered all of his options before his next visit and subsequent commitment.
He also appreciated academics, which almost certainly led to him ruling out Louisville and its disastrous APR. Though Wisconsin appeared to come on late, it was between Michigan State and Northwestern—two schools which quickly and sensibly assessed his value.
It was an "old-school" win. Some prospects these days list their top five schools on Twitter. Some prospects of Watkins' caliber think twice about NU before salivating over Ohio State and Michigan offers.
Watkins, and many 2014 guys, have not been like that. There's Big Ten championship potential and academic rigor in Evanston. Many, like Tommy Doles, cite the excellent character of current players.
The wins just made NU the complete package.
NU dealt with the Watkins recruitment perfectly, and it's a victory for the good guys. I want to share excerpts from an insightful–and seemingly credible–message board post from a friend of Watkins' father.
He said there were "4 schools" in the running: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern. Ohio State, the local school, never technically offered but may have done so in the future. Wisconsin's chances were reportedly just about gone when Bret Bielema left. Michigan State was honest about considering him a potential safety.
But the entire Watkins family embraced Pat Fitzgerald and NU. They valued character and academics, and it was truly a "family feeling" in Evanston.
You like these sorts of commits more than any other. He didn't choose NU because it was a traditionally stronger football team. He chose NU for what the program is, and for what the on-field product could eventually be.
Much of this 2014 class, which in a five-year program will likely be on the field in 2019, hold lofty expectations. The 2013 class frequently communicates over social media about winning the Big Ten; it's the common goal. They know conference championships and greater sense of national recognition is on the way.
Welcome to Dareian Watkins, a monumental pickup for the program. He's an exciting commit, but more importantly, he's a Wildcat for all of the right reasons.