Watson full of confidence in Lee

Today is the first day of the last week before the beginning of the season. For the defense there is as much anticipation as there is anxiousness. For the offense, though, there are a lot of question marks. With so much inexperience it's impossible to know just what you are going to see. But for Shawn Watson, he's not worried about QB.

It's something to say you have complete confidence in a young man who has thrown two passes in his major college career. But Offensive Coordinator/Quarterback Coach Shawn Watson says he has just that. It didn't come instantly from the moment Lee stepped on campus. But it's come. "Zac and I have had a real interesting relationship. He's an easy kid to coach, because he'll let you coach him hard," Watson said. "That's what I probably respect the most about Zac."

That maturation process might have had to have been force-fed a bit as Lee, despite being the incumbent, didn't have much more experience than the players who hadn't played at all. But with the first loss of redshirt freshman Kody Spano to an MCL injury, and then the second time due to the same injury, Lee has been the lone veteran with the team. Watson felt that was a situation which demanded he take a more specific role. "I have had to be his competition in the Spring, because of the young players. And I have had to be his competition this Fall," he said. "I told him this: ‘I'm going coach you hard. I am going to coach you to detail. I am going to coach you to perfection.'

"He's responded to all that. He's done a really nice job. I am really proud of him. He's worked really hard to do the little things that it's going to take to be a successful college player. To his credit, I have a lot of confidence in him. I really believe in him."

Throughout the Spring and now, Fall, Lee has progressed from the heir apparent to Joe Ganz, to the player who receivers, running backs and his offensive line looked to as the man who would be under center. It's something that even the defensive players took notice of as they watched the former junior college QB come into his own. "Zac has impressed me a lot as far as him coming along," senior safety Larry Asante said. "He's showed me a lot. He's very confident in his game (and) and he understands the schemes."

The scuttlebutt, or perhaps a better way to put it – the belief is that with a brand new starter at quarterback, a potential host of new starters at wide receiver  and a couple of new starters on the offensive line, Coach Watson might be inclined to dial it down a bit. This isn't Florida they are facing after all. It's Florida Atlantic, and despite the fact that there is no doubt a lot of athletes as most any Florida team is going to have, this is a team expected to play in one of those bowls with more syllables in its name than zeros in its payout.

That notion, if it is one, doesn't last long with the second-year O.C. "We're not going to change up what we do. We are going to be multiple. That's just who we are," he said. "We're going to let our guys get our feet underneath them a little bit, but as far as not being multiple, we'll be multiple."

When it comes to those wide receivers, junior Niles Paul has set himself ahead of the crowd, which even Coach Watson stated himself during the latter part of practice last week. But as for the other slots, whether it's the other starting wideout or who might be providing depth, Watson said that issue is still a little cloudy. "Ted's going to evaluate where guys are and how they practice this week. That's their motivation this week for practice. That's how you are going to gain time on the field," he said.

While he couldn't go into details about who would or wouldn't be playing at that position come Saturday, he said he had a good feel for at least a few names which we haven't seen on the field in an actual game as of yet. "Khiry Cooper, he would be one. He'll play some at receiver," Watson said of the Husker redshirt freshman wideout. "Antonio (Bell) is obviously going to play. How much, Ted will evaluate that before we commit to that. Kyler (Reed) is going to play. (Ben) Cotton is going to play. How much, we'll decide that as we through the week, and the game situation obviously will decide a lot of that, too."

On the injury front, junior left guard Keith Williams was held out of practice yesterday for an undisclosed injury. But he was back practicing with the team on Tuesday. Watson did say that his role was somewhat limited as they try to work him back into it progressively.

As the game approaches it seems obvious at this point that you could see upward of 10 players seeing time, perhaps more, who have never played a snap of collegiate ball.

Amongst that group we consider to be the favorites to play are those mentioned above as well as these:

Fr. – RB, Rex Burkhead
RsFr – LB, Will Compton
RsFr – LB, Sean Fisher
RsFr – LB, Micah Kreikemeir
Fr – DB, Andrew Green
Jr – OG, Ricky Henry
RsFr – RB, Lester Ward
Jr – DB, Dijon Gomes
So – WR, Brandon Kinnie
Fr – LB, Eric Martin
RsFr – DB, P.J. Smith
RsFr – Baker Steinkuhler

While Watson said of his quarterback situation and his offense, that he would do what he's always done, he did say that the system was adjusted for his designated starter come Saturday. But Watson said it was more about catering it to his player rather than tweaking it down to the point where he could understand it, just so that Lee would have the mental freedom to just play. "You have to really simplify the game in your mind. Part of that is the plan and the other part of that is, they can't go out and hunt for ghosts," he said. "You just have to play what you see. We have made it really simple for him so he can do that."

To that end he thinks Lee has learned the concepts, is getting better every day and now he sees this up-coming game as his moment to go from just having potential to someone showing that the perceived potential was accurate in the end. "(We'll) Just go let him cut it loose and play now, and show his arm-talent and what he's become."


Big Red Report Top Stories