Morris Watts moves into his fourth season as Michigan State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Watts is in his third stint as the Spartans’ offensive coordinator, having previously served in that capacity for former head coach George Perles for eight seasons, from 1986-90 and 1992-94.
In 2001, Watts was nominated for the Broyles Award, which is named in honor of former Arkansas head coach Frank Broyles and presented annually to the nation’s top assistant football coach. Last season, Michigan State led the Big Ten in passing offense (school-record 292.5 yards per game) and total offense (447.0 yards) and ranked third in scoring offense (31.2 points per game). The 447.0 total yards mark the second-best single-season average in Spartan history.
Watts deserves most of the credit for the rapid development of Jeff Smoker, who led the Big Ten and ranked sixth nationally in passing efficiency as a sophomore in 2001. His 166.4 rating is the third-highest single-season total in league history. In 2000, Smoker became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Michigan State since 1982.
In 1999, Watts directed a Michigan State offense that averaged 31.5 points per game — its highest scoring average in 21 years.
The 64-year-old Watts came to Michigan State following a four-year tenure at Louisiana State (1995-98), where he helped the Tigers to a combined record of 31-16 (.660) from 1995-98, including a school-record three-consecutive bowl victories (1995 Independence — beat Michigan State, 45-26; ’96 Peach — defeated Clemson, 10-7; and ’97 Independence — beat Notre Dame, 27-9). Under his direction, the Tigers won back-to-back Southeastern Conference rushing titles in 1996 and ’97. He produced three of the highest scoring teams in LSU history, with the 1996 (29.5 points per game), ’97 (31.5) and ’98 (30.6) squads ranking among the top 10.
Watts first came to Michigan State as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 1986. During his tenure from 1986-90, Michigan State compiled a 37-19-3 record (.652), won two Big Ten titles (1987 and ’90) and made four postseason bowl appearances (1987 Rose, ’88 Gator, ’89 Aloha and ’90 Sun). His stay at Michigan State was interrupted by a one-year stint as quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he tutored Vinny Testaverde.
Watts returned to East Lansing, Mich., in 1992 and spent three more seasons on the Spartan coaching staff, serving as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His coaching credits also include stops at the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions (quarterbacks, 1984-85), LSU (quarterbacks, 1983), Kansas (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks, 1982), Indiana (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers, 1973-81), Louisville (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers, 1972) and Drake (offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers, 1965-71). A native of Seneca, Mo., Watts played running back at Tulsa where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1961. He received a master’s degree from Pittsburg (Kan.) State in 1964. He is married to the former Marlene Kay Hughes of Pawhuska, Okla. They have two children, a daughter, Charlavan, and a son, Danny, plus three grandchildren, Alec, Ani and Drew.
THE WATTS FILE
YEARS AT MICHIGAN STATE: 12th. Rejoined staff on Feb. 15, 1999, from LSU.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College — offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Drake (1965-71); offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Louisville (1972); offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and wide receivers coach at Indiana (1973-81); offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas (1982); quarterbacks coach at LSU (1983); offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Michigan State (1986-90); assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Michigan State (1992-94); offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU (1995-98). USFL — Quarterbacks coach with Birmingham Stallions (1984-85). NFL — Quarterbacks coach with Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1991).
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from Tulsa in 1961; master’s degree from Pittsburg (Kan.) State in 1964.
PLAYING EXPERIENCE: College — A running back at Tulsa.
BOWL EXPERIENCE: Coach — 1979 Holiday, 1987 Rose, 1988 Gator, 1989 Aloha, 1990 Sun, 1993 Liberty, 1995 Independence, 1996 Peach, 1997 Independence, 2000 Florida Citrus, 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic.
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