Over the last 10 years, a long line of receivers has piled up all-state honors at South Charleston — names Aaron Dobson, Tevin Spurlock, Kevin Forrest, Fred Crozier and Curon Cordon.
D.Q. Watkins could be next in line to join that distinguished group.
Watkins, a 6-foot-2, 193-pound senior, is the top returning receiver for a Black Eagles squad that brings back its quarterback (Trae Murphy) and a reputation for throwing the ball around a good bit.
“He’s definitely got the potential to be that-type kid,” said SC coach Donnie Mays prior to Wednesday’s practice.
Watkins, who played both running back and receiver last year, caught 19 passes for 300 yards and one touchdown and ran 29 times for 185 yards, turning in a 101-yard game on the ground against Riverside on just seven carries.
Possibly his best receiving game came in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs in a win against Huntington when he caught five passes for 68 yards.
Mays compared him physically to Derrek Pitts, the current West Virginia University safety and first-team all-state defensive back from a season ago.
“He’s built like Derrek,” Mays said, “and he kind of plays like Derrek. He’s got to find that finish, got to find that reason to be better. Derrek found it, and D.Q. is searching for it, and I think he’s getting there.
“I think he’s had a really good first few days of practice. He’s really doing things we like. He’s so athletic and he’s got that ability — things we can’t coach. We try to teach them things about life and attitude and being respectful — things that will carry you a lot longer than football.”
Watkins is quite aware of the elite receivers SC has cranked out over the last decade, and hopes he can match their productivity.
“I just feel like I need to carry on that legacy,” Watkins said, “especially since it’s my senior year. They’ll be proud of me if I took that shoulder and stepped up to the plate and make sure we are successful this year, especially on the offensive side.
“They were nice athletes and I talk to them a lot, especially Fred Crozier. He tells me about his time. I just want to make sure everybody’s on the same page this year. I just want to make sure that everybody plays together and works hard and dedicates theirself to this team.”
Watkins, a fourth-year player, will have to be a leader on the field for the pass-catching corps this fall because, other than his numbers, South Charleston lost 87 percent of its receiving yards from last season.
“We’ve got some other kids who can step in, too,” Mays said, “and be really good at that position. We don’t set it up at the beginning of the year and say, ‘This kid’s going to be our go-to guy.’ We kind of look around and feel where we fit the best when it comes to our passing game. It’s how our quarterback feels with certain combinations and where he feels best putting the football.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is getting the ball to our best receivers, and it’s usually the guy that runs the best routes. That list of [all-staters], those have been probably our best route-runners. It’s not necessarily finding the most athletic kid, but the guy that works the hardest for it.”
With that in mind, Watkins has been working with assistant coach T.R. Dues on his footwork and his “sticks,” that is, planting his foot in order to change direction or come to a stop on a pass pattern.
“My coach T.R.’s helped me with my speed and getting my hands how they are now,” Watkins said. “This season, I should be able to show them. And I’m mostly taller than most receivers, so I can jump higher.”