Looks Like University Of Illinois - Howard Watkins
If I was a recruit, I would totally commit during the holiday Dead Period (December 12 through January 12). Only "electronic communication" is allowed - nothing face to face - so recruits have time to get away from all the coaches in their face and clear their head. Howard Watkins cleared his head.. and picked Illinois.
I always try to be as honest as I can with these evaluations and, for this one, I see more of a project than anything. Projects are good - every class needs its "ready to play early" kids and "develop him for depth down the road" kids - and I see Watkins more in the second category.
But before I talk about that, let's get some perspective here. On the composite rankings (247 combines the rankings from Rivals, Scout, ESPN, and their own ranking to come up with an average for each player), Watkins score is .8395. In this class, so far, that puts him 9th out of 14 players. If this was last year's class, though, that score would put him 5th in that class of 24 players. If we add a few players I think we might get, Watkins might end up the 14th best player in the 2017 class when he would have been the 5th best player last year. This class is a significant step up (so far).
Let me put that a different way. Last year, the average player rating for Bill Cubit's class was .8140 which was the 74th best player average nationally. This year, so far, the average player rating is .8482, which would have been the 39th best player average nationally last year. So that's the kind of jump we're talking about here. Last year, 74th best, with the closest comps being Georgia Southern and Western Michigan. This year, so far, 39th best average with the closest comps (using the 2016 list) being Louisville, Utah, and Baylor.
Yes, that could change if we switch into desperation mode in January. That's what we did last January - added 15 players the final 15 days, with six of them having sub-80, 2-star composite rankings. Something like that would certainly pull this class average down. Of course, just using the class calculator on 247's website, add Jeff Thomas and Owen Carney to this class - both have become heavy Crystal Ball favorites to pick Illinois - and the class would immediately jump to #32 nationally and the best class in the Big Ten West (yes, just by adding two more players).
So those are the parameters we're talking about here. Which is why I don't want "I like Boyd and Lowe way more than I like Watkins" to get mixed up here. We brought in five offensive linemen in the last class and Watkins would rank higher than all five of them. I'm just saying that of the three offensive linemen we've landed in this class (and the two I'm hoping we land), I'd probably put Watkins fifth out of those five.
Why is that important? Because every LLUOI post has a glance towards future rosters. So while I think I understand where Larry Boyd and Vederian Lowe fit in, I'm not sure about Watkins.
Perhaps he's what this staff is looking for in a tackle? On his film, his best attribute is getting out and running, which would suggest a pulling guard, but maybe they see him as a tackle? I don't think we know what the staff is looking to build on the offensive line yet (they're currently plugging Beckman's players into their own scheme), but perhaps it's massive guards (like Boyd and Lowe) and then smaller, quicker tackles.
Offensive line is the one position that is so dependent on the type of player a staff likes. Wisconsin wants skinny tall guys with long arms and broad shoulders (like high school quarterback David Edwards) who they can turn into offensive linemen. Some coaches go for low-center-of-gravity players. Some want the five fastest big guys they can find and would probably rather have prospective players run the 40-yard dash at camp than watch them block. Some care more about height than anything. Others care only about leg strength.
So when I watch Watkins' film, I see... a guy I'd put at defensive tackle. But perhaps the coaches see something I don't (as in, "that's the perfect quick guy for our quick tackle position"). It's going to take some time to adjust to grading these guys based on what the staff is wanting to find.
Because of that, Tom Cruises are limited here. Boyd got four Tom Cruises and Lowe got three, and even though Watkins is a mid-three star recruit, I'm just not sure where he fits. Because of that, I'm going two Tom Cruises.