An injury opened the door for cornerback Nick Watkins to step into the starting lineup. Now the rising junior will have to overcome an injury of his own to stay there in 2016.
On Sunday, Notre Dame announced that Watkins underwent successful surgery to repair a broken humerus in his left arm, suffered during Saturday’s practice. That ended Watkins’ spring, though should have him ready to work with the Irish when summer drills begin.
Watkins is fighting to step into the starting job KeiVarae Russell left behind opposite Cole Luke. He had momentum this spring coming off an impressive first start against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, a job he got only after veteran Devin Butler suffered a foot injury during bowl practices in Scottsdale.
The secondary has been a main focal point this spring, with Todd Lyght and Brian VanGorder looking to get improved play from the back end of the defense. That’s meant an open competition at every spot, with Watkins competing with Butler and rising sophomores Shaun Crawford, Nick Coleman and Ashton White as well.
Watkins has the physical attributes to win the job—strong cover skills, good length at 6-foot-.5, and the type of competitive drive the staff has worked to bring out in his two seasons in South Bend. Earlier this spring, Watkins talked about that motivation leading into 2016, especially with a season-opener against home-state power Texas.
“In my mind, I’m a starter,” Watkins told BlueandGold.com. “I feel like I’m my only competition. I failed myself if I’m not starting against Texas.”
He’ll pick up that competition this summer, healing after surgery performed by team doctor Brian Rattigan. Until then, the Irish secondary will compete without him, concluding the spring with the Blue-Gold game on Saturday, April 16th, televised on NBCSN at 12:30 a.m. ET.