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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Xavier Watts Bringing Aggression, Playmaking and Violence in 2022

August 23, 2022

In most cases, it’s not easy for a player to switch positions.

It’s probably even rarer to find a player who will switch positions multiple times.

Notre Dame receiver Avery Davis is the example of trusting the process as the Texas native went through five position changes during his career.

Due to the unfortunate injury to Davis, Notre Dame junior Xavier Watts found himself in a similar situation when head coach Marcus Freeman asked if he would be willing to play both ways last week.

"Coach Freeman approached me about it,” Watts said of the process to play receiver. “He told me it was fully my decision and asked me if I would be open to playing both ways. Of course, I said yes. Why would I turn that down?" 

Notre Dame had moved Watts from receiver to defense almost a year ago and the Nebraska native had just been settling into the safety position. Watts didn’t take long to give a yes, but he also wanted to make sure he was making the right decision for his future. 

"Probably like a couple of hours,” Watts said of how long it took to decide. “I went home, talked to my dad about it to see what he had to say. I talked to Coach O'Leary after practice and then it wasn't too long.

“Not a lot of people get the opportunity, so I'm like might as well step out of my comfort zone and help. I like being challenged, so why not try something new and give it a chance? It's been good so far." 

The opportunity to get reps on both sides of the ball is rare in the current state of college football. It speaks to the athletic and mental make-up of Watts, which is one of the reasons he was open to the change as he wants to showcase his talents. 

"People are very dominant on one side of the ball, so it's a unique attribute to be dominant on both sides of the ball,” said Watts. “That's a good characteristic to have. I've had good days at wideout and of course, it's been a little slimmed down at safety, but I've still been making plays on the ball." 

O’Leary has also embraced the challenge as the move requires him to get in extra meeting with Watts to keep him up to speed on the defense, but it’s worth it as he knows the two-way player will help the Irish. 

"He's going to help us on both sides,” stated O'Leary. “He is a tremendous football player in general. He's a smart kid. We're balancing right now and we're sharing. 

"He's going to help us on both sides and on special teams. He's going to have a huge impact on game day." 

Watts’ being familiar with Tommy Rees’ offense has helped his transition back to offense and the more reps he can get, the better. 

"I feel it's been pretty smooth,” Watts stated. “Honestly, I played offense before, so I know most of the offense. I learned some new plays - just kind of working at wideout right now and knocking some of the rust off and keeping up with my safety work as well with individual meetings with coach or just spending more time myself doing safety stuff." 

The 5-foot-11, 193-pounder has also enjoyed his time working with Irish receivers coach Chansi Stuckey. 

"He's definitely really detailed,” said Watts. “He's more of a technician-type of coach. He knows what he's talking about and knows specific positions and knowing your body." 

In fact, Stuckey’s focus on the details is something Watts has noticed from most of Freeman’s first coaching staff. 

"This whole coaching staff is really detailed in everything they do,” stated Watts. “They're all really good coaches and I feel everybody pays attention to the details here." 

When it comes to playing time on Saturdays, O’Leary believes Watts will be ready to go in all three facets of the game. 

"As much as we need him,” O’Leary said. “He's in great shape, so however much they need him and however much we need him. We're not on the field at the same time. He'll be able to play both ways and he'll do a great job at it." 

And what does Watts feel he brings to the field? 

"Hard working, violent, aggressive, playmaking,” said Watts. 

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