We all remember how amazing and important Josh Allen was for the Kentucky Wildcats two seasons ago.
While we all badly missed his production last season, however, the Cats were able to come together as a group on defense and still dominate.
Well, almost the entirety of that group is back again this year, and a Josh Allen-like player might be on the field with them.
Jamar “Boogie” Watson
- Position: Outside Linebacker
- Class: Senior
- Measurements: 6-3, 248 lbs.
- Hometown: Bradywine, Maryland
- School: Bishop McNamara
- Recruit Rankings: No. 1664 nationally, No. 116 OLB via 247 Sports Composite Rankings
Boogie wasn’t exactly Kentucky’s most heralded recruit in the Class of 2016 (as you can see from his offer sheet), but he’s a star now. Watson picked the Cats over offers from Old Dominion, Miami (Ohio), Boston College, Hampton, Virginia, and a few others.
That list shows that most believed he was ranked right where he should be, but UK saw something special in him. That belief probably stemmed from how fast the former three-star recruit adjusted to the game despite not playing football until his junior year of high school. Limited experience and film hurt his ranking, but the eye-test paid off for Kentucky.
Boogie redshirted his freshman season to allow him time to learn the game of football and build up his strength. But during his redshirt freshman season, he saw playing time in 12 of 13 games, totaling seven tackles and two sacks. This was just the beginning of his showing the ability to rush the passer.
In his sophomore season, Watson played in 12 of 13 games, starting in seven of those contests. He finished the year with 24 tackles, five TFL, three PBUs, and one forced fumble. He was also second on the team, behind only Josh Allen, with five sacks.
After his very good sophomore showing, Watson’s hype started building entering his junior campaign. He started in 11 of 13 games last year, including nine straight. Boogie totaled 36 tackles, a team-high 11.5 TFL and seven quarterback hurries, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Watson’s 6.5 sacks were good for sixth in the SEC, while his TFL were good for 10th. Boogie now has 18.5 TFL and 13.5 sacks in his career as he heads into what’s expected to be a monster senior season.
Now, if you’re wondering why I keep comparing Boogie to Josh Allen, let’s take a look at how he compares to Kentucky’s last two first-round picks in Allen and Bud Dupree.
Moreover, if we just look at their junior seasons, you can see why many think Watson could make a similar jump. During their junior seasons, Dupree had 61 tackles and Allen 66 (69 for Boogie); Dupree had 9.5 TFL and Allen 10.5 (11.5 for Boogie); Dupree and Allen had seven sacks (6.5 for Boogie).
The similarities are there between two elite pass rushers and Watson, and Kentucky fans aren’t the only ones taking notice.
PFF ranks Boogie as the highest-graded returning pass-rusher in the SEC, and No. 3 in the entire country.
Highest-graded returning SEC pass-rushers— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 18, 2020
1. Jamar Watson, Kentucky 89.5
2. Christian Barmore, Alabama 88.1
3. Malik Herring, Georgia 85.8 pic.twitter.com/vua6zyD3Mq
And over the past six seasons, Boogie is in elite company when it comes to pass-rush win rate.
Highest pass-rush win rate over the past six seasons:— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 6, 2020
➤ Tim Williams, Alabama - 29%
➤ Nick Bosa, OSU - 26%
➤ Chase Young, OSU - 22%
➤ Jamar Watson, UK - 22%
➤ Joey Bosa, OSU - 21% pic.twitter.com/2LJfqGyzi7
Not only are Boogie’s numbers comparable to Dupree and Allen, but he’s also sandwiched between three top-five picks, and three of the top-ten best pass-rushers this decade, in pass-rush win rate.
Watson has rightfully been placed on both the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List and Senior Bowl Watch List. He’s also made multiple preseason All-SEC teams.
The leading sack returner in the SEC is poised for a huge season in his last year in Lexington. His development over the years has been nothing short of amazing and this should be the peak.
Watson could easily see his stock soar to the first round of the NFL Draft with a big season in 2020. So, get ready, BBN, because we could be watching the next big thing.
Hopefully, there’s a fall football season to watch it unfold.