From Doug Roberson:
Brandon Watts has started six games, yet teammates and coaches have no trouble deciding which play made by the outside linebacker is their favorite.
On fourth and four in Georgia Tech’s win last Saturday against Presbyterian, Watts chased down a receiver, stopping him one yard short of the first down.
“It showed everything about him, his smarts, his speed,” fellow outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu said. “He’s just so fast, he was on a beeline.”
There are actually lots to choose from, including a blocked field goal earlier in the game, because Watts has the size (6-2, 238) and speed to play in almost every defensive package and on most of the special teams. Watts has started a few games the past two years, but this may be the coming-out party for the redshirt junior. He leads the team in tackles (14), is tied for the lead in sacks (one), has the blocked kick and a pass breakup while playing every snap on defense through the season’s first seven quarters. Because of his versatility, he figures to feature in many packages in this week’s game against Virginia at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m very comfortable,” Watts said of being a starter and his role in coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 defense. “I’m picking up on everything very well,” finishing with a soft, drawling “yeeeeah” that he uses to end most sentences.
Coach Paul Johnson said Watts may be the fastest player on the team in pads, an unofficial title usually reserved for a wide receiver or defensive back. Attaochu said Watts challenges him, but Attaochu, who is fast, won’t race him.
“There’s football speed and there’s track speed,” Johnson said. “He’s got football speed. He’s a really good starter and can go zero from 60 really fast.”
Watts won’t say how fast he is, only “I’m fast enough to catch whoever’s in front of me.” He says the speed comes from hard work and good genes. His mother ran track and his father played football in the Marines.
Watts’ favorite play this season didn’t come in a passing situation. He said his best came against Presbyterian on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. He used his speed to get up field and his strength to take on a blocker, forcing the running back to turn back inside where his teammates “cleaned him up” for a loss.
It’s fitting that Watts chose a running play because he said that’s what he expects to see a lot of from the Cavaliers on Saturday. Virginia ran over Georgia Tech last year, rushing for 272 yards in a 24-21 victory in Charlottesville, Va.
In addition to playing in the base defense against the Cavs, Watts will likely see time in Tech’s nickel packages, giving them the needed size to shed blockers if the Cavs try to switch things up by running in passing situations.
“They are very physical up front,” Watts said. “They have good athletes, good backs, nice receivers, nice tight ends. They are going to try to run the ball.”
Watts is far from a finished product. Groh said he wants to see him improve how he uses his hands and his coverage skills. But Groh said Watts has a good football acumen appreciates that his versatility allows him to be highlighted from almost anywhere on the field.
“He’s got a good pretty good feel for the game,” Groh said.