Watkins fills schools' need for speed
WINTER PARK, Fla. -- Saturday's FHSAA Class 2A state track meet didn't go quite the way top wide receiver prospect Sammy Watkins (Fort Myers, Fla./South Fort Myers) envisioned. After running some blazing times on the track last week at the regional qualifier at Golden Gate High School in Naples, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect wasn't able to build on his first sub-10.7-second time in the 100 meters.
"I wasn't completely happy," Watkins said following Saturday's meet at legendary Showalter Field. "The guy who won the 100 meters [freshman Jerimy Strainge of North Broward Prep] ran 10.66, and I ran the same time last week."
Watkins still cemented his status as one of the top young sprinters in the state, finishing the 100 finals in a time of 10.98 seconds for fifth place. He also competed in the 200 meters, in which he turned in a time of 21.98 seconds to place sixth.
As track comes to an end, Watkins turns his focus to football. Spring football practices started for many teams in Florida on Saturday. For Watkins, it's also a chance to narrow things down on the recruiting trail, as he is beginning to focus on the schools he will really look at this fall.
"That will be known in a week or so," Watkins said when asked what his list of top schools looks like. "I'm going to narrow the list down to 10."
One school that looks to be a lock to make Watkins' top 10 is the University of Florida, where his brother Jaylen enrolled early as a freshman in January and took part in spring drills at the cornerback position. Sammy had a chance to take in a spring practice in Gainesville and came away pleased with his experience there.
"It was good watching the Gators, the fans and him play period," Sammy said of the practice. "It touched me a little bit. It made me think of playing up there -- be with my brother as a teammate, Urban Meyer and the new receivers coach [Zach Azzanni]. I would have fun."
Sammy also admits that while he is glad to see his brother doing well at Florida, the experience is somewhat bittersweet.
"I miss [Jaylen], but I'm glad to see him doing good up there," Sammy said.
While Jaylen's presence at Florida is expected to have a bit of an effect on Sammy's recruitment, so to is the pending decision of senior teammate Dallas Crawford (5-10, 185), a prospect who is looked on as a potential impact defensive back on the next level. Sammy and Crawford had the chance to take in a recent spring game at the University of Michigan, and Sammy said the pair were pleased with the time they spent in Ann Arbor.
"I had a lot of fun with Dallas and the coaches," Watkins said of the trip. "It was a good time."
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As to whether or not Crawford's decision could have any effect on his own, Watkins says it's not necessarily a make-or-break proposition.
"Yes, there's interest [in playing together]," he said. "But sometimes you have to make your own decisions and do what's best for you."
In any case, Watkins is continuing his rapid development on the field and on the track. This past season, he had 46 receptions for 1,192 yards (a 25.9 average) and 14 touchdowns for the Wolfpack. As dangerous as he was as a receiver last year, opponents might find him even tougher to cover this upcoming season, because he has added a solid 10 to 15 pounds of muscle this offseason.
"I'm 195 [pounds] at least," he said of his current weight. "I've been gaining weight! You know I've got to put on a little bit more muscle [before the season]. But I'm always getting faster, so that's OK."
Justin Wells is a writer for ESPN affiliate and Florida fan site GatorCountry.com.