If you couldn’t tell by now, Texas running back coach Stan Drayton values versatility in his meeting room. Being able to tote the rock is one thing, but when you can be an asset as a pass blocker in blitz pickup and or as a receiver out of the backfield or split out wide then you really set yourself apart from the pack in evaluations.
Running backs Daniel Young and Toneil Carter have certainly shown in flashes that they possess these traits and incoming freshman back Keaontay Ingram has shown on tape consistently that he can be that kind of back as well. The thing these three players have in common? They will all be underclassmen when the 2018 season kicks off this fall and they could probably benefit from some veteran experience in the rotation.
That’s where former Cal running back Tre Watson enters the picture. Watson possesses the traits mentioned previously and he was setup for a breakout year as the lead back in Berkley in 2017 before suffering a season ending injury. Watson got the Wally Pipp treatment, as his replacement Patrick Laird experienced a breakout season of his own as he tallied over 1400 yards from scrimmage . With that transpiring, Watson opted to go the graduate transfer route and look for a new home.
Watson looks to have found what he was looking for in his new home in Austin, Texas. After officially visiting Texas over the weekend and thoroughly enjoying himself for the spring game festivities, Watson decided to call Austin home for the next year and become a Longhorn.
Player InformationName: Tre Watson
High School/ College: Centennial/ Cal- Berkley
City & State: Corona, CA
2014: 25 carries, 94 yards, 1 TD, 1 reception, 1 yard, 20 kick returns, 407 yards, 1 punt return, 4 yards
2015: 88 carries, 494 yards, 3 TDs, 10 receptions, 106 yards, 1 TD, 2 kick returns, 44 yards
2016: 143 carries, 709 yards, 4 TDs, 21 receptions, 241 yards, 4 TDs, 12 kick returns, 206 yards
2017: 17 carries, 83 yards, 5 receptions, 31 yards **
** Suffered a season ending injury
- Battle tested veteran. Tallied just under 1800 yards from scrimmage during his time in Berkley.
- Brings a diversified skill set to the table. Can be effective as a receiver out of the backfield and can also be split out wide.
- Possesses solid size for the position at 5’11, 205 pounds.
- Possesses good vision and runs decisively. Sticks his foot in the ground and goes without much hesitation and shows good up-field burst.
- Shows to have a good feel and patience for inside and outside zone as well as the power run game.
- Has the speed to get the corner of the defense and rip of yards in chunks.
- Not the biggest guy, but runs with some subtle power and runs behind his pads when anticipating contact.
- Has some wiggle and can make defenders miss in close quarters and in the open field.
- Will be a big asset in the screen game in Austin just like he was in Berkley.
- Possesses a reliable set of hands as a receiver.
- Could be an asset in the return game.
- Suffered a season ending lower body injury in 2017. Will have to be sure he has fully recovered from that injury without any setbacks.
- Returning from a lower body injury makes me wonder if he will have the same decisiveness and burst as he did pre-injury.
- Was easily replaced after going down with an injury. Product of a plug and play system?
- Can he BYOB (be your own blocker) with the state of the Texas offensive line?
- Shows a lot of good on tape, but I have questions about how he holds up as a pass protector.
- He’s a one year band-aid for the position that is young and struggled a bit this spring with ball security.
- Will likely steal carries from one of the young backs, which could be both good and bad.
Tre Watson is a former three year lettermen with the California Golden Bears. Watson participated in 37 games and logged 8 starts before going down with a season ending lower body injury in the second game of season in 2017. Prior to the injury in 2017, Watson displayed the makings of a player that could be an asset in three different phases of the game (as a runner, a receiver, and returner). As a runner, Watson displays good feel for both the zone (inside and outside) and power run game. He shows good vision, and patience as he lets the play and blocks develop in front of him before showing off his up-field burst and exploding to the second and third levels of the defense. At 5’11, 205 pounds, Watson has solid size for the position and does a good job of running behind his pads and show good tackle breaking ability both through finesse and at times through pure strength from his lower body. Watson has some wiggle to his game and is capable of making defenders miss in close quarters as well as the open field and particularly showed off this facet of his game as a receiver in the screen game. As a receiver, Watson proves to have reliable hands in the screen game or even flexed out wide in empty sets. Watson possessing this ability only adds to his value due how Texas likes to utilize their running backs outside of just turning and putting the ball in their belly. Watson being a reliable target in the passing game gives Watson the opportunity to potentially be a three down back during his time in Austin, which would be a change a pace from the game of musical chairs the position experienced in 2017. During his time in Berkley, Watson also logged snap both as a kick and punt returner, and while he didn’t put any points on the board as the return man, he does bring that experience the table and give the coaches another option back there going forward.
The more I watch Watson, the more I really like this pickup for Texas. Does him coming off a lower leg injury worry me? Yes. Does he likely take carries away from two young backs that showed promise last year? Yep. Does the Texas offensive line still need to be able to open up consistent running lanes for him to be successful? You would be correct about that.
In regards to the young backs, I don’t think the Texas coaches would be going down this avenue if they felt 100% comfortable with their stable after concluding spring practice. We’ve already covered the staff’s concerns about ball security and we saw that issue in the spring game with Toneil Carter putting the ball on the ground. And while many are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Keaontay Ingram in the summer, it would be nice if the staff didn’t have to rely heavily on a true freshman for the second year in a row at the running back position.
Watson may be a one year rental, but he could prove to be a very valuable asset in the Texas backfield in 2018 with the skill set he brings to the table and he takes the pressure off of Keaontay Ingram to have to provide meaningful snaps from Day 1.
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