Shawn Watson is in his fifth season at Nebraska in 2010 and his fourth as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Watson has a proven track record as a Big 12 coordinator and has 28 years of college coaching experience, including three years as a head coach.
Nebraska returns 10 offensive starters for the 2010 season, a large contrast to last season when the Huskers lost most of their offensive experience, especially at the skill positions. First-time starters accounted for 22 of Nebraska's 40 touchdowns in 2009, including 10 scores from the Huskers' freshman class.
Three true freshmen scored for Nebraska in 2009, a program record. In the season opener, I-back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Cody Green each rushed for a touchdown to become the first pair of Husker true freshmen to ever score in a season opener. Green later went on to start games at Baylor and at home against Oklahoma to join Tommie Frazier as the only true freshmen to start at quarterback for the Huskers.
Although an inexperienced offense did not match the elite offensive numbers of the previous two seasons - including top-25 total offense rankings in both 2007 and 2008 - the unit helped Nebraska capture the Big 12 North crown and post its first 10-win season since 2003.
Nebraska averaged 147.1 rushing yards per game in 2009, and junior I-back Roy Helu Jr. posted a 1,000-yard rushing season, and surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards. The Huskers averaged 175.7 yards through the air, and first-year starter Zac Lee completed nearly 60 percent of his passes. Watson's balanced attack a year earlier averaged 169.8 yards per game on the ground and 281.0 yards in the air, as the Huskers' 450.8 yards of total offense per game ranked 12th nationally.
Senior quarterback Joe Ganz set single-season school records for total yards with 3,826, and passing yards with 3,568 in 2008. He threw for 25 touchdowns while completing 67.9 percent of his passes, finishing his career with more than 20 NU records.
Watson was promoted to offensive coordinator before the 2007 season, when the Huskers threw for a school-record 3,886 yards, including the top three passing days in school history. The Nebraska offense ranked ninth nationally at 468.2 yards per game, NU's best average since 1997. A pair of Watson's quarterbacks helped Nebraska rank seventh nationally in passing with a school-record 323.8 yards per game.
In his first season at Nebraska, Watson coached the tight ends and was the recruiting coordinator. Among his proteges that first season at NU was Matt Herian, who finished his career with a Husker tight end record for receptions (65) and reception yardage (1,243).
Watson came to Nebraska after seven seasons on Gary Barnett's Colorado staff from 1999 to 2005, including the last six as offensive coordinator. Watson was on the staff of four Colorado teams that won the Big 12 North Division, including a conference title in 2001.
Prior to moving to Colorado, Watson worked for Barnett at Northwestern in 1997 and 1998, serving as quarterbacks coach for the Wildcats. Watson earned his spot at Northwestern following a three-year stint as the head coach at Southern Illinois, Watson's alma mater. During his three years at SIU, the Salukis compiled an 11-22 record, and produced 20 all-conference players.
Watson was named the coach at SIU after an impressive seven-year run as an assistant coach at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. At Miami, Watson tutored the tight ends for three years, wide receivers for two years and served as quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator in his final two seasons.
Watson's first full-time assistant coaching job came on Mike White's Illinois staff. Watson first served as a graduate assistant in 1983 and 1984, then worked with the offensive tackles and tight ends in 1985, before serving as the Illini's wide receivers coach in 1986. Watson was a part of two bowl teams at Illinois, including the 1983 Rose Bowl team.
Watson began his collegiate playing career at Illinois in 1978, but transferred to Southern Illinois at Carbondale in 1979 and played two seasons with the Salukis as a safety. He earned a bachelor's degree from SIU in 1982, then served for one season as a graduate assistant with the Salukis in 1982.
Watson and his wife, Anita, have a daughter, Amber, and two sons, Aaron and Adam, a senior walk-on receiver for the Huskers. Amber and her husband, Marcus, have two children, Caden and Maggie.
The Watson File
Family: Wife, Anita; Children, Amber, Aaron and Adam
Education: Southern Illinois Carbondale, Bachelor’s, health education, 1982; High School: Carterville (Ill.) High School
Playing Experience: 1978, Illinois; 1979-80, Southern Illinois
Coaching Experience: 1982, Southern Illinois (graduate assistant coach); 1983-84, Illinois (graduate assistant coach); 1985, Illinois (assistant coach/tight ends and offensive tackles); 1986, Illinois (assistant coach/wide receivers); 1987-89, Miami (Ohio) University (assistant coach/tight ends); 1990-93, Miami (assistant coach/quarterbacks, recruiting coordinator); 1994-96, Southern Illinois (head coach); 1997-98, Northwestern (assistant coach/quarterbacks); 1999, Colorado (assistant coach/quarterbacks); 2000-2005, Colorado (assistant coach/offensive coordinator, quarterbacks); 2006, Nebraska (assistant coach/tight ends, recruiting coordinator); 2007-present, Nebraska (assistant coach/offensive coordinator, quarterbacks)