Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Season Countdown: #34 Brandon Watson

Brandon Watson
Name: Brandon Watson
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 189 lbs.
High school: Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy
Position: Cornerback
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #28
Last year: I ranked Watson #73 and said he would redshirt. He redshirted.

I did not have much of a feel for Watson when he was coming out of high school. Film on him was scarce, except for a couple plays here or there taken on the same video cameras that captured the existence of Bigfoot. He was a high school corner who played both safety and cornerback in practice last season.

Known for his physicality, Watson seems to have meshed well with the new coaching staff. He is not the biggest or fastest corner around, but he has long arms and can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. This was the best play of the spring game:
(image via
That's Watson hanging right there with Maurice Ways, who gets clocked by Jarrod Wilson, jarring the ball loose for Watson to pick. This play, a couple other decent ones in the spring game, and some buzz out of the spring session suggest that Watson has made a move up the depth chart. It doesn't hurt that three corners left (Raymon Taylor, Delonte Hollowell, and Blake Countess), one guy moved to safety (Jabrill Peppers), and two others haven't done much with their opportunities (Terry Richardson, Channing Stribling). It seems like a bit of a toss-up as to whether Watson or Stribling will be the third corner, but I'm giving the edge to Watson because a) he played well in the spring game and b) his mentality seems to fit the new regime's.

Prediction: Backup cornerback, special teamer


  1. Debatable as if that is the best spring game play.

    That was not a great route by Ways, good tackle and angle by Wilson, and Watson was in the right place at the right time.

    I don't know how I feel about this one. I don't want Watson to be this high, but I understand it.

    1. Love that he is this high! M needs a physical CB to match up with certain players and in certain sets. Thunder thinks he has a shot to be that, so I think that is a good thing.

  2. No doubt Jabrill Peppers is much higher on the list ... perhaps even #1.

    The MGoBlog "Hail to the Victors" annual guide has an article on Peppers being a unique "in-space" safety that can excel at both run support and cover support

    Assuming that's true, what does that do to the requirements for the two corners? Does it make more physical (but perhaps slightly slower ... such as Watson) corners fit better? Or does it mean Pepper committed to a blitz package puts more value on speed and coverage by the corners (which might disfavor Watson)?

    Similarly, let's say -- heaven forbid! -- Peppers sustains an injury that keeps him out of a game. What does that mean to the type of corner Michigan would then need, and how would someone like Watson or Stribbling then fare?

    1. Check out the Jerry Hanlon piece on MGOvideo where he breaks down Durkin's D at Florida. He changes stuff around a lot, but he seems to have quite a few sets that call for multiple guys in the secondary to get physical with receivers to hold up timing routes and allow pash rushers to get there. I think that is what Thunder is talking about as system fit.

    2. Just hope Peppers doesn't get hurt trying to come up into the box to stop a barreling 245 lb RB who has broken past the first level of defenders.

    3. Anonymous @8:16 -- thanks ... cool video.

      "and allow pass rushers to get there"

      That seems to be the key to defense -- effective penetration by DL to disrupt the play. That's what Michigan has been lacking since 2012. Let's hope they have something in that department this year.

    4. Mgoblog said similar "hybrid space player stuff" about Dymonte Thomas 2 years ago. Not sure that's a reliable source for conjecture about unproven CB/S types.

  3. I'm putting this pick on Malzone. If he puts the ball out there where it belongs, Ways doesn't have to wait, Watson (who I like) is beat and never gets his hand in there in the first place. Wilson might still drill Ways, but Ways has two hands on the ball pulled into his chest with nobody competing for it.

    Still a real nice play for Watson and Wilson. A play making boundary corner would be a welcome addition around here as well.

    1. That play was to the field side, actually--ball was snapped on the opposite hash.

    2. Nicely spotted, but when the team isn't split into two groups, Jordan is the likely field corner and among the more likely locks for a particular position on the team, leaving the boundary corner up for the serious competition.

  4. This is how I figured you'd rate the running backs, one after another. I like Watson and can't wait for the season, Go Blue

  5. I guess CB play is in the eye of the beholder.

    I see Stribling getting beat on a play like this:

    as a far better indicator of potential future production than the INT shown above.

    On that play, Watson is beat by Ways (a wide receiver who doesn't seem like he will be very good, let alone as good as Robinson) and then the ball is underthrown, Wilson gets a free shot at Ways, who fails to reel in the catch, ball pops out and lands right in Watson's hands.

    Credit Watson for sticking with the play and good ball awareness (and ding Stribling for bad ball awareness) but I'll take the guy who has an NFL-caliber senior well covered over a guy getting burned by a ho-hum 3-star WR...

    If Wilson isn't there, if Malzone throws an accurate ball, if Ways doesn't have whatever hands issues he has, this is a potential TD. Not sure Watson did much here to warrant his rank.

  6. I see Stribling as having a significant edge over Watson. One year older, 2 seasons edge in experience, more physically gifted, etc. I've heard the hype and like what I've read about Watson, but I don't think he bumps Stribling to the fringes of the bench in 2015. I also get the 'system' talk, but ultimately you have to stay on your man and Stribling seems to be pretty solid at that.

    That said, if you view the two as approximate equivalents, I get the rank. I'd have them both a bit higher than this but it's in the right neighborhood. Personally, I expect a bigger gap and so I'd rank Stribling around 20 and Watson around 35.

    Hoping Watson has a good year and gets some meaningful snaps as a backup (like Stribling did last year). There's plenty of snaps available for the 4th CB. Next year, with Lyons, Wilson, and maybe even Lewis gone there should be plenty of opportunity for both guys to step into the starting lineup.

    1. I had high hopes for Stribling as well, but his lesser role as a soph does not bode well. Mattison was absolutely desperate last year for any CB's who could jam WR's at the LOS. That should have been an opportunity for a bigger guy like Stribling to shine. Not sure what the deal is there. Agree with Thunder that Watson seemed to be getting more buzz this spring under the new staff. It is possible that he is just more physical.

    2. @PS

      If there was such desperation on Mattison's part - why not play Watson? Watson's 8 months younger and class under Stribling but seems more physically mature. Stribling played as a freshman - why couldn't Watson? Watson has more than 10 pounds on Stribling.

      I'm seeing a lot of this sort of mentality in the fanbase. If a guy doesn't play -- clean slate and optimisim. Meanwhile the guy who beat him out for playing time, looked OK but not great -- strike against you, bench the bum.

    3. At 20 you would be ranking your 3rd CB higher than a couple starters. Also, if it's true that they are planning to move Pepper over the slot and bring in another safety then the argument that a 3rd CB is basically a starter is thrown out the window.

    4. Agree that last year was disappointing for Stribling. That said, we should be careful not to read too much into the last staff's personnel choices.

      Aside from the obvious fact that there's a new regime that will make its own evaluations, the previous one was notoriously inscrutable in its choices. Guys constantly lost snaps to less-promising guys in the name of motivation (Jarrod Wilson and Willie Henry being two obvious examples), or rotation (look at the modest 2014 tackle totals for everyone except Ryan and Bolden), or a shift in philosophy (James Ross), or because the staff was determined to get a certain size/skill-set into the lineup. Cam Gordon (a small LB converted from DB) was 2nd on the team in TFLs his senior year in 2013, yet they still didn't play him all that much. It was like they were always looking for something different than what they had.

      So anyway, now that this sort of stuff is hopefully behind us, we'll see where everyone fits.

    5. Yeah - some 'backups' are more important than starters. Some because the positions are heavily substituted (e.g., FB, OLB) and others because there's a ton of depth of similarly-capable players (e.g., RB). The offense won't skip a beat if Chesson or Green go out and Canteen or Smith go in. But if Michigan needs a 4th CB they might have to pull a safety out of position or use a freshman.

      The argument against the 3rd CB is what you said -- they can put Peppers there. Which may or may not be true.

      20 may be a little too high for Stribling but I think he has a shot at displacing Lyons and earning the starting gig.

    6. Great thoughts Anon 2:07.

      "It was like they were always looking for something different than what they had."

      Also agree about the new staff increasing uncertainty. That said, I still think we saw the better players play above worse players more often than not. Every decision from hoke won't be repeated, but most will.