Ross Watson, whose coaching experience includes stints on the defensive staffs at Nebraska and Florida Atlantic, has joined the Northern Illinois University football staff as an assistant coach working with the Huskie defense, NIU head coach Rod Carey announced Thursday.
Watson comes to NIU from Youngstown State University, where he had been elevated to assistant coach by new head coach Bo Pelini after spending the 2014 campaign with the Penguins as the director of football operations. He will work with a Huskie defense that held its opponents to 24 points or fewer in nine games and will lose just three starters in 2015.
Carey said that Watson is an excellent addition to the Huskies’ staff.
“We’re really excited to add Ross to our defensive staff,” Carey said. “He brings great knowledge and experience, as well as a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I’m excited for him to work with our players and coaches, and to have him, his wife, Sydney, and their son, Stanley, as part of the Huskie football family.”
In 2012 and 2013, Watson coached defensive backs at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, site of the Huskies’ 2014 Boca Raton Bowl appearance. In his final season at FAU, the Owls ranked second in the FBS in passing yards allowed (161.5 yards per game), were third in team passing efficiency defense (97.41) and ranked 11th in total defense. FAU ranked 27th nationally in passing defense in 2012.
Prior to going to FAU, Watson spent four seasons on Pelini’s staff at Nebraska, including three seasons as a graduate assistant. During his time there, the Huskers enjoyed a defensive resurgence, leading the nation in scoring defense in 2009. Nebraska also finished that season ranked seventh nationally in total defense. Watson was on the staff during the Huskers’ transition to the Big Ten.
Watson said the tradition of NIU football, as well as the family environment built by Carey, attracted him to DeKalb.
“No. 1, it’s a really exciting opportunity to coach where there is a great family environment,” he said. “The rich, strong tradition of NIU Football really captured my attention. It is always exciting to get around a new group of men. I look forward to bringing what I can to the table on defense, and I really look forward to developing relationships with the players. That’s the most important and most rewarding aspect of the job. ”
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Watson spent two seasons as the cornerbacks coach at his alma mater, Division III powerhouse Mount Union. The Purple Raiders posted a 29-1 record, won the 2006 national championship and finished as the Division III runner-up in 2007 during Watson’s seasons on the sidelines. In 2007, Mount Union’s defense shut out seven opponents, intercepted 17 passes and held opponents to 173.7 total yards per game. During the 2006 perfect (15-0) season, the Raider defense allowed just 186 yards per game, posted four shutouts and intercepted 22 passes.
Watson, who graduated from Austintown (Ohio) Fitch High School in 2002, played cornerback for Mount Union from 2002-05. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mount Union in 2006 and received his master’s degree in education from Nebraska in 2011.
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