Notre Dame Football 2014 Recruiting – Defensive Backs and Punter Review

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Brian Kelly brought in two defensive backs and a kicking specialist in the 2014 class, all of whom should find the field early for the Irish.

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Welcome to the final part of our six part, in-depth series on the 2014 Notre Dame football recruiting class. Following signing day, we unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family.

This installment will focus on the remaining players: CB Nick Watkins, S Drue Tranquill, and P Tyler Newsome.

For reference, here is the previous positional pieces:

Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Tight End

Defensive End

Defensive Tackle

Linebackers

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.

~~~

Irish Defensive Backs and Kicker - Signees
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.926 Nick Watkins Dallas, TX 6-1/185 Cornerback
.896 Drue Tranquill Ft. Wayne, IN 6-2/210 Safety
.805 Tyler Newsome Carrollton, GA 6-3/190 Punter

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on 247Sports.com

~~~

CB Nick Watkins

(Dallas, TX - Bishop Dunne) - 6'1"/185/4.50

OFD Average: 91

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Nick Watkins out of De Soto, Texas, the third of our Texas players. Bishop Dunn High School, which has got a number of our teachers from our ACE program there, as well, and just a great school. Nick Watkins, you talk about a talented football player, his dad played in the NFL, great pedigree, 6'1". This is a long corner. This is draft day, you're getting a No. 1 draft pick. This kid is an exceptional football player. We think we got one of the best corners around. Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us. He can play man, he can play zone. I got a chance to see him play. I didn't see him play one game in person, but I saw a lot of his tape.

I just think he's an outstanding player that is going to develop here, and again, from my standpoint, love the ability that we can get a corner that has some size to him.

Eric: 89

High points the ball really well so hopefully he won't have any problems turning his head around and breaking up passes. His height is impressive and he adds pretty good quickness with length. His open field speed is one of the best things I like about his game. He's got a long stride and can really open up when there's green grass in front of him. Watkins looks like a solid technician at corner with decent physicality. Lots of potential with his size and it'll likely be a reason why he pushes his way onto the field very early in his career.

alstein: 92

Confident cover corner should play immediately for BVG, who likes to use a lot of CBs. His WR highlights show great ball skills and he has all the requisite tackling and press coverage skills, even if he's a notch below top end speed.

pburns2010: 90

Very good ball skills, and very good speed - if he can learn to play physically at the line as well as keep his speed with a few more pounds, he will be the heir apparent to KVR, ready to take to the field as the main man in 2016. If his listed height is correct, he is the breed of CB we need to see more of to be a truly dominant defense.

4pointshooter: 92

Jim Miesle: 91

Not to use too much coach-speak here, but there is a lot to like about Watkins. He should be in the rotation as a freshman in some capacity-whether as a nickel/dime corner, a guy who can take a few snaps to give the starters a break, or on special teams. He is pretty tall for a corner, which will give him some room to add a few pounds and become an even greater physical presence on the outside for the Irish defense. He can excel in either man or zone, and will have plenty of opportunity to showcase his talents in what looks to be a more aggressive defense under Brian VanGorder.

~~~

S Drue Tranquill

(Ft. Wayne, IN - Carroll) - 6'2"/210/4.50

OFD Average: 85

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Drue Tranquill, interesting, I kept talking, a number of these players how we saw a lot of these players in the summer. Well, we saw Drue, too, and we saw Drue, and we weren't looking for his position at the time because we were really full, and he was playing safety. But he kept jumping out at us. This kid was making plays, and Coach Hiestand kept banging me about hey, listen, watch this kid, and we kept looking at him, and he'd keep making plays during camp. And so he was always on our radar, but we were not ready to offer a scholarship at that particular position.

It got to the point where I watched more film, we watched more film. I loved his attitude. I loved the way he played the game. I said, we're going to offer him as a head coach's offer. Head coach can offer anybody, right? Coach, we don't have a scholarship. I said, well, we've got a scholarship now. So I offered him a scholarship, and we really didn't have a position for him because we just loved the way he played the game, and so that's kind of how the recruiting process went on Drue. People have asked does he play safety, does he play running back? I don't know where he plays, but he's going to play somewhere here at Notre Dame because he's a darned good football player, he's athletic, he's competitive, and we'll find a place for him somewhere. He's one of those guys if he's going to play at Notre Dame he's going to play somewhere because he's a really good football player.

Eric: 83

Good athlete and already physically developed. That size and strength can get him some early playing time, especially on special teams, but it might limit his potential in the long run. My fear is that he'll quickly get too big for safety and doesn't quite have the body-type to be a 245 pound Dog linebacker. Ideally, he's best suited as an outside linebacker for a 4-3 system. Toughness and tackling ability are a strength. I like the versatility he showed in high school playing several different positions. Speed and quickness look decent. Let's get him on campus and see where he fits in.

alstein: 87

Another athletic defensive recruit and very natural football player with nasty demeanor. No one knows what position he slots into for BVG, but he's too aggressive and athletic not to find a spot and make an impact.

pburns2010: 83

Tranquill has the size and athleticism to become a very solid player for the Irish, but I think where he may suffer is in finding a true position. I foresee some bouncing between LB and SS, and mostly just special teams work for the first few seasons. That being said, he will have an impact early on special teams -- what impact he has otherwise is yet to be seen.

4pointshooter: 87

Jim Miesle: 85

While safety might be the initial positional label for Tranquill, I think athlete might be more appropriate. He could contribute in a number of facets of the game for Notre Dame. It wouldn't surprise me to see him take snaps at a few different spots over his Irish career. He could easily stay at safety, but will ultimately grow into a linebacker at some point. I think the staff will try to preserve a year of eligibility and try him out at a few spots in practice to see where he best fits.

~~~

P Tyler Newsome

(Carrollton, GA - Carrollton) - 6'3"/190

OFD Average: 87

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Tyler Newsome, punter-kicker out of Carrollton High School. We had Tyler up here this summer. We had the kicking camp here, and we got a chance to see him work out. Just was really impressed with his versatility. Long lever punter, which in terms of his abilities really transcend the normal punting. He's a guy that doesn't come along very often. He's 6'3", 190 pounds right now, and he is skinny. He's going to be a really big kid. We loved the pop that he had as a kicker, but we were most intrigued by his punting, and that's an area that he's going to continue to work on and continue to develop, but he was such an intriguing young man in all the kids that we saw that when we saw him punting, there was nobody that was even close to with the potential upside that he has. Great student, one of the best in his class. And I have a young man, Red Keith, who is a coach there that played for me at Central Michigan, and he was able to fill us in on Tyler as a competitor, too. We got Kyle Brindza, who's one of the greatest competitors I've ever coached. So I like those guys at that position to be great competitors, too, and I've been told by Red he's a great competitor, as well.

All those things together made it, for us, a decision to offer Tyler a scholarship, and he committed to us, and we're excited to have him signed here at Notre Dame.

Eric: 85

He punts good. He has a big leg too. I'm interested to see his field goal kicking accuracy.

alstein: 86

Accurate high school kicker with big punting leg, could step right in for Brindza after next season as a dual-threat in the kicking game.

pburns2010: 93

GREAT punter. Semi sarcastic, but I watched a punter's film, and he showed great control, as well as solid leg strength (as illustrated by the mid-highlight reel touchback montage). If we are going to spend a scholarship on a specialist, we should all be very happy with Mr. Newsome.

4pointshooter: 88

Jim Miesle: 85

Well, I guess others don't have much to say...and I am not sure I have much to add. Ideally, Brindza won't have to cover all facets of the kicking game this fall, as Newsome can take over the punting duties while refining his accuracy as a place kicker (Tyler-feel free to read some of the OFD work by Punter Bro if you need pointers). While signing a punter in this class might not be the most appealing move to most fans, it was really needed and the staff found a pretty good one here.

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