CB Nick Watkins has a change of heart, will seek grad transfer from Note Dame

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

In the end, Nick Watkins' heart couldn’t sync up with Notre Dame’s depth chart reality.

And on Thursday, after repeatedly vowing to stick with the Irish for a fifth year, Watkins announced he’ll pursue a grad-style transfer upon picking up his degree in May.

Watkins made the announcement on his Instagram account.

"First, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for everything they've done for me throughout my career," Watkins wrote. "When I decided to attend Notre Dame, my primary goal was to earn a degree from this prestigious university, and I'm proud to say that I'll achieve that goal. With that being said, I'll search for a new school to attend for my last year of college football."

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback from DeSoto, Texas, started the first nine games of the 2017 season for the Irish (10-3), but got overtaken on the depth chart by Troy Pride Jr. for the last four.

This spring incumbent junior starter Julian Love, senior Shaun Crawford and Pride — a junior — all surged at a position group that’s the deepest on either side of the ball for the Irish. Watkins would have played in a rotation, but he told head coach Brian Kelly he is leaving to have an opportunity to be a full-time cornerback.

The impending departure leaves the Irish still two over the NCAA scholarship limit of 85. Notre Dame doesn’t have to hit that mark until the first day of fall-semester classes, on Aug. 22.

Notre Dame still has a wealth of quantity and quality in its cornerback corps. Junior Donte Vaughn is also expected to be part of the playing rotation. Four freshman join the mix in June — Noah Boykin, Tariq Bracy, DJ Brown and Joe Wilkins Jr.

Watkins recorded 29 tackles last season, with 8 pass breakups and an interception. He missed the entire 2016 season with a broken arm and took a medical redshirt year.

He is the second ND player to announce a grad transfer in the past few days. Defensive end Jay Hayes, after originally announcing Oklahoma would be his next destination, has settled on Georgia to play out his final season of eligibility.

Thank you Irish Nation ..

A post shared by Nicholas C. Watkins (@nicholympus_) on Apr 26, 2018 at 1:48pm PDT

Cornerback Nick Watkins lines up to run a drill during a 2017 Notre Dame football spring practice. Watkins announced on Thursday he'll pursue a grad transfer.