Tech coaches even remarked as much on an unofficial visit when they weighed and measured him, including his wingspan.
“I can’t remember my wingspan, but they were like, it’s really long,” Watkins said.
On one play in his highlight video, Watkins rushed the quarterback from the left side. As he closed in, the quarterback tried to escape pressure by backing out of the pocket. He couldn’t do it quickly enough, as Watkins reached out with his left arm to reel him in, blowing up the play.
The videos of other commits show similar plays, of defenders enveloping ballcarriers with their long grasp.
One of Tech’s top-rated commits, Buford High cornerback Jalen Huff, looks the part. Listed at 6-foot-0 and 176 pounds, he can play press coverage, turns well and can tackle in open space. And, he is blessed with long reach, a trait that his highlight video shows him repeatedly to break up passes, even when his positioning isn’t ideal.
“They just told me that that’s kind of what they’re looking for,” Huff said of Tech coaches.
When defensive-line coach Larry Knight visited Grovetown High (outside of Augusta) on Monday, he informed coach Damien Postell of what he was looking for in linemen, according to Postell.
“They’re just trying to find those guys that are long and can run and are rangy, able to move in space,” Postell said.
Postell has one such player, rising-senior defensive lineman Simeon Barrow, listed at 6-2 and 252 pounds. A scholarship offer from Tech may be coming.
The benefit of height and reach isn’t too difficult to guess. Suddes compared it with basketball, how defenders with long wingspans can challenge more shots and deflect more passes.
“Same thing in football,” he said. “I think the longer you are and the bigger you are, obviously, the more space you cover. You think about (the football field), it’s 53-1/3 yards wide, you’re trying to cover the field, especially on defense.”
A wide receiver with long arms provides a more forgiving target than one with shorter arms. Offensive and defensive linemen with longer arms can control their opponents by getting their hands on them.
It doesn’t mean that Tech will turn up its nose at every last stubby-armed prospect. Suddes recognizes that there are anomalies, such as Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
“But you need long guys,” Suddes said. “Obviously, the taller you are on defensive line, the harder it is for the quarterback to see passing lanes. And from an offensive-line standpoint, if the D-ends and D-tackles have long arms, you’d better have just as long arms because they’re going to get in your chest and you can’t even touch them.”
This also doesn’t mean that Tech is recruiting long-armed players to the exclusion of nothing else. When defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker visited Apalachee High on Wednesday, he spoke with coach Tony Lotti about qualities less tangible than wingspan.
“I kind of knew that they were wanting length and things like that, but then it was more about that toughness, especially with him being the defensive coordinator,” Lotti said. “Who’s going to be that tough type?”
Tough with long arms and legs, preferably.
“It’s tough to win with really short guys,” Suddes said.