PULLMAN — Zero.
That’s the number on Washington State cornerback Jaylen Watson’s uniform.
That is also the number of completions the 6-foot-3, 204-pound redshirt senior from Augusta, Georgia, wants to give up this season.
That might sound like an outlandish goal, but there is no doubt that Watson, a former USC signee, is quite serious.
“I don’t want to give up anything,” said Watson, who became the first Cougar to wear No. 0, with the NCAA allowing that number for the first time last year.
Watson didn’t give up many completions last year in the three games he played and was named honorable mention All-Pac-12.
“I had one at Oregon State, on a skinny post (route), but that is all I can remember,” said Watson, who sports a necklace with a zero on it. “I set my standards high, but when I am in man coverage I try not to give up any passes. So that’s the goal each game.”
Cougar receiver Donovan Ollie, who has battled Watson in practice, was asked if he thought Watson’s goal was attainable: “Oh yeah, of course. I’ve got faith in my boy.”
Said starting free safety Daniel Isom: “I believe him.”
Watson is just happy to be playing again after having to take a year off. He was a two-time junior college All-American at Ventura College in Southern California and was part of USC’s 2019 signing class.
But Watson never enrolled and spent the year working on his academics. He reopened his recruiting and found a home at Washington State.
“That’s why I try to come out here with so much energy because I remember when I didn’t have this opportunity, and I just wished I could get to where I am now,” Watson said.
Watson is considered one of the best NFL prospects on the Cougars. He certainly has the size and speed to catch scouts’ attention.
And Watson, who added pounds in the offseason by lifting weights and improving his diet, is not shy about landing a big hit — even on a teammate.
During a tackling drill last week, he hit a teammate so hard that he went flying over the padded mat and onto the ground.
Then, last Thursday during the first practice with pads on, Watson leveled receiver Drake Owen just as a pass arrived. Owen, who had the wind knocked out of him, was on the ground for several seconds.
Coach Nick Rolovich wasn’t happy seeing Owen flattened — “They both could have made a different decision to have avoided that” — but said it was a good tackle.
“He’s a big, strong corner now,” Rolovich said.
Watson said he watched a lot of film of himself from last year, and wasn’t always happy with what he saw.
“Last year I didn’t feel like I was in the best shape after having a full year off,” he said. “Once drives went long or we got into the third and fourth quarter … I was losing my legs and losing my technique. But I’ve been working on that a lot this offseason.”
And that is bad news for opposing receivers.