Q & A with Quarterbacks Coach Morris Watts
muredhawks.com Quarterbacks coach Morris Watts Quarterbacks coach Morris Watts

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June 19, 2009

MURedHawks.com sat down recently with new Miami quarterbacks coach Morris Watts and got his thoughts about spring practice, the progress of his QBs, and much more.

How was your time with spring practice?

"I had a ball. It brought back the things that I missed and the reason I wanted to get back into it. Just being around the game itself and the coaches and the players. Total involvement. Just football. I coached for a lot of years, so when I retired I was able to cope because I felt I'd had my time, so to speak. It wasn't horrible being in retirement, but there was something missing ... especially the competitive part."

So when Coach Haywood called, did it take long to decide?

"No, it really didn't. I wanted my wife to be comfortable with the decision. When I finally decided to retire, I told her I'd be around more. But she knew how much that I'd been missing football, so she was all for it. Being a coach's wife is a tough life, especially when there are children at home. The wife becomes mother, father, the whole works. There are lots of times when they're the only one home. They have to make all of the decisions, take the kids to the school events. It's tough. I've got a lot of respect for a coach's wife."

How have these players handled the switch-over these past six months?

"I think they've handled it real well. Mike did a great job in how he went about it. I saw some really neat things out of Coach Haywood here. He had the ability to put the hammer down when it needed to be put down, then I saw compassion shown when there was a time and place for it. With every program I've ever been around when there's been a change, there's going to be a test. Some players are reluctant to change. They think they know the way to do it and don't want to change, so sometimes the brakes have to be put on and changes have to be made. Our kids here at Miami did a great job of accepting it and I thought Coach Haywood did a great job of not varying from the things he wanted to get established, both athletically and academically. There were certain things he wanted to get established. There will be some times when things will be tested, but overall we're going in a positive direction of the way things are supposed to be done."

What about your quarterbacks during spring practice?

"It was tough at first. The toughest thing about it all was the terminology and it really becomes a factor at quarterback. If you think too much, it's not the reaction game that it's meant to be. All of a sudden, the ball is snapped and you have to make decisions. And that showed early. I really like our quarterbacks from the aspect of showing patience. We made a lot of improvement in that area as the spring went along. I expect it to be head and hands better when we start in the fall because they've had the time to absorb those things, then everything will be second nature to them."

What should the quarterbacks be doing this summer?

"The key thing for a quarterback in the summer is to get in unbelievable strength shape so that he cuts down his chances for injury, and then being in running shape so that he can play the four quarters without his level of play dropping down because he runs out of gas. The next thing is for him to come in with his arm in great shape. They've got to work out with their receivers this summer and throw and catch, improving their timing. Then, from day one of practice in August, they don't have to worry about those things. We can take off immediately with teaching and refining the little things."

It could be argued that Daniel Raudabaugh had the greatest advantage because of his experience, but that he also was perhaps at the greatest disadvantage due to having to change systems. What was his progress in the spring?

"He came a long way. He wasn't reluctant about the change. How something was called was stuck deeper in his mind than it was the others. Never did he resent nor not go along with any of the things we were teaching him. He's still got to improve, but when he absorbs all of the information more during the summer, all of the situations and terminology will be second nature to him."

How about the progress of your other quarterbacks?

"Clay Belton had a problem with an injury so he really didn't progress much in the spring. The summer will be a very important time for him to study the playbook. The coaches can't meet with him, so he's got a lot of catching up to do on the physical and mental part of it.

"(Zac) Dysert came a long way. One of the things that's difficult for a redshirt is that sometimes you develop a few bad habits because you're on the scout team, throwing against the defense. The coaches aren't worried about the scout team quarterback making bad decisions as much because they want to show the defense how an opposing quarterback likes to throw a certain route. But Zac's a real intelligent young man and he really paid attention to detail in the spring. He's going to push for that position and playing time. I expect him to be a heck of a lot better than he ended spring practice."

How will you work with Austin Boucher, the incoming freshman?

"We'll try to teach him our system quickly. He's got some tools to work with as a quarterback. His pocket presence as a high school player was outstanding. He just has a great feel for knowing when to move a little bit to the right and when to move a little bit to the left or to step up into the pocket or take off. He's got a real natural way about him. His biggest thing will be the terminology difference. Austin's personality attracted me to him from the first time I met him on a recruiting trip. He has a charisma that pulls people to him and makes them feel comfortable. He'll mix real quickly and become a `teammate.' The fact that he and all of our freshmen are going to be on campus this summer is going to help all of them. It's a real positive that way and also how they'll adjust to college life."

Since you last worked with Coach Haywood at LSU, how has he grown?

"Naturally, he's grown in his knowledge of the game. Coach Haywood is a challenge-driven individual, to be as good as he can be. From all of the stories I heard about him as a player, he was the same way. I always told my wife that if Mike gets a chance to be a head coach that he'll be a good one. He's studied well under the people that he's worked for as far as how to handle situations. I don't see any hesitancy in him when he has to make head coaching decisions. He seems to thrive upon the challenges that a head coach faces. I spent so many years as an assistant coach and as an offensive coordinator--and as a head coach for three games--that I know what the challenges are. In essence, it's like being the father of 105 young men. You've got to make decisions that will lead them in the direction that they need to go in regard to your program. Mike Haywood is well on his way to being an outstanding head coach. He did a great job of assembling a staff that gets along well and understands the importance of `team.' All through the years, I know that I thrived off a staff and a group of players who were hungry and wanted to get better."

How about the schedule? It doesn't give you much leeway for not being at the top of your game, does it?

"We're going to be challenged, so our young men have to learn that every practice is unbelievably important because of how our season is going to take off. Those first several programs have been together, so that makes the team aspect of it so important for us. We've got a hill to climb to get our team ready to play at that level. Our young men have to take the approach that every day is truly a mountain that we're going to have to climb."