The Michigan football staff begins its recruitment in the Midwest, hoping to target players within four to five hours of Ann Arbor. But when they find a player from farther away with ties to the area, that's just as good.
Cornerback Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne) is one of those prospects. His father is former Detroit Lions cornerback Bobby Watkins Jr., and Nick's mother’s side of the family still lives in the Detroit area.
That connection, coupled with Watkins' skill set, made him the most recent offer in the Wolverines' 2014 class. Michigan has 25 offers out for that year, with six in the secondary.
"It was amazing to get an offer from Michigan," Watkins said. "That's definitely one of the options I'm considering. You know, I could go to my grandma's house or my cousin's house whenever."
Dunne Bishop coach Michael Johnson said offensive line coach Darrell Funk was in Dallas to watch Watkins during the school's spring practice a few weeks ago. Johnson had a chance to speak with Funk about his lockdown corner after practice.
"They love his ability to make the big-time play," Johnson said. "They like that he can play man-to-man and that he has the ability to play zone coverage. And then the fact that [Nick] has family in Michigan, I think that was key for them as well. … But I think what sold them was being able to see him in person."
Watkins won't be camping with the Wolverines this summer, but he hopes to take an unofficial visit to the campus in June or July. He will also be visiting Texas, Arkansas, Alabama and possibly TCU.
The Wolverines are the sixth school to offer Watkins, though most of his interest has stemmed from southern schools (Alabama, Texas A&M, Arkansas). He isn't sure how far he would want to go from home, but because of his ties with the state of Michigan he said that he wouldn't feel that far from home in Ann Arbor.
"My parents want me close, that's a given, but if I went there, I'd still be with family," Watkins said. "It could be a factor in the end."
Watkins seems to fit the bill for the type of cornerback the Wolverines are recruiting. Three of the four 2014 cornerbacks offered so far are at least 6-foot and 180 pounds. Watkins is 6-1, 180, and boasts a longer wingspan, which helps him defend in jump-ball situations.
Johnson said that was something Funk noticed about Watkins during practice.
"He has great size and he's such a smart player and then he just makes plays," Johnson said. "Nine times out of 10 if you throw it his way, it's going to get picked, broken up, or blocked. He's a shutdown corner."
It's still early in the process for Watkins, who's finishing up his sophomore year, but Johnson said he sometimes forgets how young Watkins is. Unlike most sophomores, Watkins takes the game very seriously. One thing that has separated him from other cornerback prospects is his maturity.
"I'm a smart player, a smart gambler," Watkins said. "I let the game come to me. I'm not that guy that's so excited. I'm in the middle, even-keeled. I'll never let my emotions get the best of me."