When Eupora football coach Stephen Edwards starts pencilling in his defense, the first name that he puts on the board is at middle linebacker.
There stands Deunte Watson, who looks every bit the part.
Watson stands at 6-foot and weighs a solid 202 pounds and one that Edwards counts on to make a lot of tackles, earning him a spot of The Webster Progress Times/Choctaw Plaindealer Eleven To Watch for 2019. Already named to the team are Israel Whitmore and Tylan Carter of Choctaw County High School, Parker Burleson and Conner Shurden of East Webster and M.J. Thomas of Eupora.
“We are expecting him to make a lot of tackles for us,” Edwards said. “He will definitely be one of the leaders for us on defense and the leader of the front end of our defense. He will also play some offense and run the ball for us some and may even play some tight end. He’s a team player and will play wherever we need him at.”
Edwards said the coaches thought they might have made a mistake with Watson last year.
“The first half of the year was new to him at middle linebacker,” Edwards said. “We kind of had to shore up some stuff on defense so we watched the film and graded them out. You could just tell that he was getting better and better every week. So we left him inside and he averaged 10 tackles a game for the last of the season. He’s a true inside linebacker. He’s 6-foot but he plays bigger than that.”
Edwards said one of Watson’s strengths was his instinct.
“Frame wise, he has a long wing span and just makes plays,” Edwards said. “His instincts have gotten really good. He’s an instinctive kid that is going to make a lot of tackles. If he gets his hands on you, he is going to get you down on the ground. I don’t know if we blocked him one time this spring. It seemed like he made every play. I thought we were struggling on offense (in the spring) and then realized that Deunte was just that good.”
Watson, who also had three sacks and three fumble recoveries to go with his tackles was also named a first-time All-division 2-2A pick at linebacker last year. Watson had a season-high 14 tackles against Calhoun City, including a “big-time hit,” that set the tone for the contest.
Watson said he has had some interest from Jackson State and many of the state’s junior colleges.
“A lot of the junior college coaches have come by and liked him,” Edwards said. “He’s taller and 20 pounds heavier than Edwin (Herard) who signed at Holmes. They know that he needs to add some weight and they have all of those things that you need to do that. I think he’s a kid that will thrive in a college setting.”
Watson was also on the Eupora powerlifting team and finished fourth in the 198-pound weight class this past year. Watson said he has gotten stronger in the last year.
“I was benching 225 pounds last year and now I’m benching 250 pounds,” Watson said. “I have went up on everything in the weight room. I squatted over 400 and deadlifted 500. I’ve been working hard and trying to get stronger.”
Edwards said Watson is the kind of player that every coach wants on his team.
“He doesn’t have a bad day,” Edwards said. “He is going to give you the same effort and attitude every day. He’s going to practice hard and play hard. He’s going to bring his lunch pale and go to work every day. He’s the kind of kid you want representing your team. He is a kid that is going to do more action than talking. He’s always respectful to adults and he has done a good job of representing our team and our school. He’s the type of kid that you just love to coach.”
Watson said he is an honor role student and hasn’t made a C since the second grade.
“I would like to go to (junior) college and then transfer to a four-year school if that’s what it takes for me,” Watson said. “I would like to get about 120 tackles this year and I think if I have a good year, the offers will come. If I don’t get a good scholarship, I thought about going to the Army. My aunt is in the Army and has a good rank and said she thought it would be good for me.”
Edwards said he thinks the offers will come for Watson, he just needs to pick up where he left off last year.
“Most of his tackles came in the last half of the year last season,” Edwards said. “He just needs to do what he did at the end of the year last year and be in on a lot of tackles. I think if he does that, the offers will come.”
Watson said he realizes he needs to be a better leader and be a better communicator on defense to help the Eagles get back to the playoffs.
“I know I’ve got to step up and be one of the leaders on defense the year,” Watson said. “We have a lot of young guys on defense this year and I’ve got to step up and help those guys. Everybody is closer here. The key word here is family. We stick together here and we help each other. I just know I have to be a better communicator. I need to study more and help my linemen more. I’m the guy who has to tell the defensive lineman where to lineup and make the calls for the defense. I’ve just got to do a better job at that.”