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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame S Xavier Watts Confident & Hungry For More

December 19, 2022

Notre Dame saw several players emerge into significant roles in 2022. Zeke Correll has become a force in the middle, while Logan Diggs and Audric Estime proved to be a deadly 1-2 punch at running back. 

Who made the biggest jump? Xavier Watts. 

The junior safety has quietly moved up the depth chart with his play, which is a statement in itself as Watts made the transition to defense last fall. 

Watts started the last three games of the season and ended up No. 7 on the team with 36 tackles in the year. The 5-foot-11, 193-pounder is pleased with his progression as he didn’t know how much playing time was in Notre Dame’s plans for him this fall. 

“Coming into the year, I didn’t try to think too much about playing time,” stated Watts. Obviously, you want to play. All the hard work you put in, you don’t want it to go to waste. So I’m coming into the year thinking that if I get my opportunity, I have to do what I have to do. If it doesn’t come, just keep your head high because you never know what will happen.”

In fact, Watts was taking reps at receiver and safety during parts of fall camp following Avery Davis’ ACL injury. The split between offense and defense didn’t last long, but if Notre Dame needed an answer on Watts’ commitment to the program, it was quickly answered. 

“There were a couple injuries and they just approached me asking if I wanted to do both,” said Watts. “I was open to it. It was kind of just for the summer.” 

The focus on one position benefitted the Nebraska native as Watts found his groove, which led to confidence. 

“Just being myself, being confident,” Watts said of his biggest growth. “Early in the season, I was a little hesitant of where I need to be and the type of calls I need to make. Over time, I just started saying what I need to say and doing what I need to do.”

Defensive coordinator Al Golden has also noticed more confidence coming from Watts. The tackles are nice, but Golden believes Watts has grown significantly in his communication running the back end of the defense. 

"You can argue he's made the most growth, right,” Golden explained. “Not just in playing time, but in playmaking. The thing that we're challenging him to do. I just wanted to go over there and recognize and thank him for being more vocal. For taking more control. That's been the challenge.

“He's reached a comfort level now where he's doing that and you can't be a great safety without being verbal and demonstrative. And being in command. You don't always make the right decision, but if you're decisive, and you're loud, and we're all playing the same thing, so be it. We can fix that. We can't fix when nine guys are playing one thing, and two are playing another.”

The taste of more playing time and success has Watts hungry for more. 

“Every day, I try to just come here, do a job, work on myself as best I could and once given the opportunity, display what I can do,” said Watts. “That has come for me, and I’ve done a great job being able to take advantage of my opportunity. I don’t want to stop. I want to keep progressing with more years to come.”

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