Jonathan Taylor is now in the NFL, so it’s next man up at RB for the Wisconsin Football program, and that man is Nakia Watson.
When many think of Wisconsin Football, the first thing that comes to mind is the running back position. Behind an always stout offensive line, the Badgers ground and pound style of football has consistently made them one of the best rushing teams in the country year in and year out.
Over the last decade or so alone, we’ve seen several Badger running backs have tremendous success at the college level and move on to have NFL careers. Of course, this group includes most recently, Jonathan Taylor, along with James White, Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement, and Montee Ball.
In four of the last eight college seasons, a Badger running back has won the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s top back. Taylor would win the award twice, while Gordon and Ball each won it once. And since the award was created in 1989, Wisconsin has won it five times – Ron Dayne being the other recipient – the most any other program in the country.
Year after year, Wisconsin continues to churn out some of the best running backs in college football, and with their next man up mentality, it’s Nakia Watson’s turn to take the reins at RBU.
The 2018 season was a redshirt year for Watson, but in 2019, he would appear in all 14 games and was the second-leading rusher behind Taylor. In total, Watson posted 331 rushing yards at 4.5 yards per carry with two touchdowns. His best individual performance came Week 1 against South Florida, where Watson had 80 rushing yards on 14 carries with a touchdown.
At 5’11” – 229 pounds, Watson has good size that will allow him to endure the heavy workload that comes with the RB1 position at Wisconsin, but we’ve also seen him flash that speed and athleticism that he possesses as well.
In an interview with Badger247, Watson mentioned how the game was really starting to “slow down a lot” for him last season and that he was actually able to “see what’s going on” rather than everything moving at light speed.
In fact, both offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and Jonathan Taylor mentioned how impressed they were with Watson’s development over the course of last season:
“I’m really excited about his progress,” Rudolph said. “As a young player, what he’s been able to do this year has been huge. Couldn’t be more excited about his progress.”
Taylor would go on to add:
“Seeing the way he’s developed his patience and being able to understand that the game will come to you if you just relax and follow your keys,” Taylor said. “You really started to see that as he’s progressed throughout the season. It’s been real fun watching him.”
Running backs’ coach, John Settle, has stated that this year the snaps among the Badger running backs would be more by “committee” than in year’s past. However, the lion’s share of the snaps are Watson’s for the taking.
Entering his redshirt sophomore season, with only 74 career rushing attempts, Watson was already named to the Doak Walker Award watchlist for the upcoming season. That’s the kind of reputation that the Wisconsin Football program has built at the running back position over the years.
When one back moves on, another highly-productive back steps in; it’s the Badger way. And in 2020, Nakia Watson appears to be the next man up.