Watson staying at Nebraska; Bama’s search is continuing

January 23, 2008


TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s search for a new offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach briefly turned toward Lincoln, Neb., and Shawn Watson, but the Nebraska offensive coordinator is staying put and all indications are that an offer to join the Crimson Tide was never made.

Saban told reporters in Mobile, where he was attending Tuesday’s practices for the Senior Bowl, that he “didn’t really offer” the job to Watson, but only asked for permission to speak with him.

Watson is one of just two holdovers from the previous staff led by Bill Callahan, who was fired by then interim athletic director Tom Osborne in November and replaced by LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.

“He’s a good coach,” Saban told HuskersIllustrated.com. “He’s got a good history, he’s been with some guys, he’s a good person, he’s a good recruiter and he’s done a good job wherever he’s been.”

Watson had no comment, but did offer the following statement: “I am excited about continuing in my role as the offensive coordinator at Nebraska. I deeply appreciate the opportunity that Coach Pelini and Coach Osborne have given me. My family and I enjoy being at Nebraska. This is a great place to do what I love and that is coaching football.

“Right now my focus is on helping finish up a strong recruiting class and looking ahead to spring football. We have a great group of kids in our program and I look forward to coaching the offense we have coming back for next season.”

Last season was Watson’s first as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator, when the Cornhuskers passed for a school-record 3,886 yards, and the offense ranked 11th nationally at 468.2 yards per game. During his first season at Nebraska in 2006, Watson was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Previously, he was the head coach at Southern Illinois (1994-96), and a staple on Gary Barnett’s coaching staff at both Colorado (1999-2005), and Northwestern (1997-98), including six years as the Buffaloes’ offensive coordinator.

“I’m pleased that he’s staying,” Pelini told the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s important to the continuity of the program. He’s an important cog.”

Of note, nearly every NFL front office official is in Mobile this week for Senior Bowl practices, minus the coaching staffs of the New England Patriots and New York Giants, whose teams will meet in next week’s Super Bowl. However, few will actually stay for Saturday’s game.

Of the three former Crimson Tide players practicing with the South team, wide receiver DJ Hall is off to the best start. Cornerback Simeon Castille is being projected by many NFL teams as a safety and nickel package defender, while defensive end Wallace Gilberry took some snaps at linebacker during a 7-on-7 drill.

Reach Christopher Walsh at christopher.walsh@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.