Watson mum on potential job opportunities

2010-12-28T10:57:00Z Watson mum on potential job opportunitiesBy Brian Christopherson / Lincoln Journal Star Fremont Tribune

SAN DIEGO - Speculate as you will. Shawn Watson's lips are sealed.

It has been no sleepy December for Nebraska's offensive coordinator. First the Big 12 championship game, then an interview for the Vanderbilt head coaching job, and now he appears to be one of the front-runners for the position at Miami (Ohio).

But Watson wasn't about to budge after Monday's practice when the subject of any opportunities that might be out there for him came up.

"I don't want to do that," Watson said when asked of his interest in any head coaching jobs. "That's not what's important this week."

Any idea when Miami of Ohio might try to fill its head coaching position?

"I have no idea, buddy. I have no idea," he said. "I'm sure they're going to get something done soon, though."

The 51-year-old Watson has never tried to hide his interest in becoming a head coach again.

And Husker head coach Bo Pelini always has encouraged his assistants to chase such aspirations.

Watson was a head coach at Southern Illinois for three years in the 1990s. Perhaps the time is right again?

"It's hard in this coaching business to put a time frame on it," Watson said. "Because you don't know the beauty of the beholder's eye, you don't know. That's something where you've just got to keep working hard and have a plan when those times come. And if you're the right guy, it finds you."

Whatever lies ahead, Watson said he's appreciated the support of Pelini and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne.

"They've been awesome. They understand," Watson said. "Coach (Osborne) has been a great mentor to me and Bo has been a great friend. He has total respect because we all chase this stuff. So they understand it."

All the while, the Huskers are preparing for a Holiday Bowl rematch with Washington.

Watson said it hasn't been difficult balancing outside activities with bowl preparation because of the way Nebraska's practice schedule was set up.

Of course, the players hear the buzz. Sophomore quarterback Cody Green said he tries to tune it out.

But, admittedly, he said any speculation about Watson "kind of hits home a little bit because he is like a father figure to us, especially for the quarterbacks and the guys he's recruited.

"To hear those things," Green said, "I'm glad for him because it's a head coaching job, but on the other side, it kind of hits home because he's like my dad up here."

Given that, Green would be as quick as anyone to defend Watson against critics, who have appeared in greater numbers since the Big 12 championship game loss to Oklahoma.

The Nebraska offense failed to score in the second half. Watson took the brunt of the criticism.

"The people in the stands and the people who watch it on TV, they don't see what we see on a daily basis," Green said. "He's a great guy, great offensive coordinator, and a great offensive man. You can tell he's had a career with offensive ball. He's just one of those guys where you could spend all day and just hang out with him. If you want to talk about football, you talk about football. If you don't, it's OK. You don't have to. And so, honestly, whenever people on the radio and things like that say bad stuff about Coach Watson, it's one of those things that kind of hits a button for me."

Watson says he's just focused on football.

Last year, his offense bounced back from a disappointing Big 12 title game showing, laying it on Arizona in a 33-0 whipping.

The 2009 offense had its share of injuries, only to put together one of its best performances of the year in the bowl game after the month off allowed some key players to get healthy.

Watson is hopeful a similar situation is unfolding in the month leading up to Thursday's bowl game.

Most notably, Watson points to the improved health of quarterback Taylor Martinez and wide receiver Niles Paul.

"I think we've been able to sit back, settle in and get back to being us a little bit more," Watson said.

The coach thinks last week's time away from practice was especially beneficial for Martinez, nagged since the Missouri game by a sore ankle, and later by turf toe.

Now? "He seems to be 100 percent," Watson said. "He's running and making the same cuts and being explosive like he was in the midseason."

Watson said Martinez was "stung" after he struggled against Oklahoma and wants to prove himself.

"You could tell in that game he was a little beat up still," Watson said. "He's back to being healthy and he's had a lot of purpose in his work."

It will need to be proven under the lights, but Martinez did seem to have most of his zip back during Monday's practice.

Martinez is a native of nearby Corona and his family looked on as the team broke for the day.

It no doubt seemed like a long time since the last game for Martinez, Watson, everybody, really.

A game, please.

"It's kind of like being in training camp," Watson said. "You get to this point and you want to play somebody. That's kind of the feeling you get today. We've been at it so long, the guys are kind of anxious to play again. That's a good thing."

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