CEDAR FALLS – UNI head coach Mark Farley rounded out his coaching staff for the 2020 season. Farley’ entering his 20th season as the head coach of UNI football, tabbed college football veteran Shawn Watson as an offensive assistant coaching quarterbacks and former Nebraska quarterback and Youngstown State assistant Joe Ganz as the wide receivers coach.
Watson joins the Panthers from the University of Georgia where he was an offensive quality control coach for the 2019 season. Before his time at Georgia, he was the offensive coordinator at Pitt. He has also been the offensive coordinator at Colorado, Nebraska and Louisville, and held positions at nine total power five schools.
At Louisville, he coached Teddy Bridgewater for his entire career. He helped the future first-round draft pick to 9,817 yards passing and 72 touchdowns. Bridgewater’s completion percentage jumped from 64.5% as a freshman to 71.0% as a junior, his final season before entering the NFL draft.
He was the head coach at his alma mater Southern Illinois from 1994-1996.
“Shawn brings a wealth of experience to our staff,” Farley said. “He will provide mentorship to our offensive staff and guidance to our entire staff as we prepare for the 2020 season. He is a great addition as he is known for his development of QB’s and with three young, talented quarterbacks on our roster, we are thrilled to have Shawn join our team.”
For his part, the main draw for Watson at UNI was his relationship with Farley. A friendship that spans the better part of three decades.
“My attraction to UNI begins with my relationship with Mark,” Watson said. “We have been friends since 1994 when I took over the head job at Southern Illinois. When he moved over to Kansas, I was at Colorado. We have been in contact for nearly 30 years, we’ve maintained that friendship. I admire his work. He came back here and won. He reached out with me this offseason to ask for help and it grew into this.”
He started a little over a month ago and brings a veteran voice to a young offensive staff led by Ryan Mahaffey. As a veteran coach, he is more worried about his impact on the athletes and young coaches that he is working with than his title.
“At this point in my career, that is what I am looking for, a place where I can make an impact and enjoy where I am working,” Watson said. “I love working with the kids and I love mentoring young coaches. Before I even entertained coming here, I wanted to make sure that I would have a good working relationship with Coach Mahaffey and the entire staff. We have some bright young coaches and we are working well together. The relationships on the staff are key to accomplishing the goals that we have.”
Ganz comes to UNI from Youngstown State where he was the quarterbacks coach for the Penguins for the past two seasons. He helped the Youngstown QBs pass for 2,289 yards and 21 touchdowns against just eight interceptions in 2019 despite injuries to starter Nathan Mays. In 2018, Montgomery Van Gorder was named to the MVC All-Newcomer team after throwing for 1,934 yards and 14 TDs.
Prior to coaching QBs, he guided the tight ends at YSU. The 2016 unit was key in the Penguins trip to the FCS National Title game. With tight ends catching touchdowns in the semifinals and in Frisco.
A native of the Chicagoland area, Ganz also adds strong connections to a place that is an important recruiting area for the Panthers.
“Joe brings a knowledge of the MVFC and our recruiting area with his Chicago ties,” Farley said. “We are glad to have him coaching our receivers and look forward to him joining us in Cedar Falls.”
As an opponent, Ganz has seen UNI football plays the game up close and is excited to work with the Panther staff and coach Farley.
“Coaching on the other side, you knew that the UNI team was really well-coached and they were going to play hard,” he said. “I’ve always had a ton of respect for coach Farley, the way he runs his program, the type of kids that come through UNI and the way they play the game. This is a great opportunity for me to work and learn under coach Farley and work with a talented football team.”
He reunites with Watson who was his position coach at Nebraska where he holds the single-season records for passing yards, yards per game, completions and total offense. He finished his career
“Coach Watson was very impactful on how I was as a player and he was a major influence on how I modeled myself as a coach,” Ganz said. “As a 20-year-old kid, I felt like he cared about his players and he does everything he can to help you be the best player you can be.”
Spring practice has been canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panthers are scheduled to open the season on the road at Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 5.