AUBURN —Bert Watts has been named special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Auburn, head coach Bryan Harsin announced Thursday. Watts spent the past season at Memphis as linebackers coach after three seasons at Fresno State, including two as defensive coordinator.
“Bert is a great addition to round out our on-field coaching staff, overseeing our special teams unit and working with our outside linebackers and edge rushers,” Harsin said. “I coached against him during his time at Fresno State and I always had a tremendous amount of respect for his coaching style and abilities. Bert’s players have always been very well prepared, disciplined and executed at a high level.”
This past season at Memphis, Watts helped the Tigers to an 8-3 record and a bowl victory, while defensively the unit was top 20 nationally in red zone defense, turnovers gained and fumbles recovered.
“My family and I are excited to join the Auburn family and we’re grateful to Coach Harsin and his staff to be a part of the legacy of Auburn football,” Watts said. “I’m thankful and appreciative to get to work with players that will trust us on a journey to success and I can’t wait to get started.”
In three seasons at Fresno State (2017-19), Watts' defense ranked in the Top 10 nationally in several statistical categories. In 2018, the Bulldogs finished with a 12-2 record and were Mountain West Champions.
In 2018, the Bulldogs ranked third nationally in scoring defense, surrendering 14.1 points per game. Fresno State also finished the 2018 campaign ranked in the Top 10 in the FBS in red zone defense (1st), scoring defense (3rd), passes intercepted (4th), passing efficiency defense (5th) and turnover margin (9th). Individually, Watts helped mentor linebacker Jeff Allison as the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2018.
Prior to Fresno State, Watts spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator at UC Davis with a focus on the defensive backs unit.
His first season overseeing the UC Davis defense in 2013 resulted in four of his players earning postseason recognition from the Big Sky Conference. Two more were recognized the next season and five more earned honors from the conference in 2016.
Defensive lineman Nick King was a second team pick after amassing eight sacks, cornerback Jonathan Perkins had four pass breakups on his way to third-team accolades, linebacker Steven Pitts earned honorable mention after tallying 74 tackles and 11.5 TFLs, and cornerback Shamawn Wright was selected honorable mention after leading the team with nine PBUs. Pitts returned to the All-Big Sky honorable mention squad in 2014 and was joined by safety Charles Boyett.
In 2016, defensive tackle Inoke Raikadroka was named a second-team selection after compiling 24 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 1.0 sacks and one fumble recovery in nine games played. Defensive tackle Zak Pettit, inside linebacker Nas Anesi, cornerback Keleen Culberson and safety Zach Jones earned honorable mention recognition.
The Basking Ridge, N.J. native also holds NFL experience, helping the Denver Broncos earn the top seed in the AFC playoffs in 2012.
A three-year letterwinner at Cal, Watts led the Bears' defense with 80 tackles as a senior in 2002. Following his senior year, he was the recipient of the team's Joe Roth Award, given to the player that exemplifies superior courage, attitude and sportsmanship.
Watts earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in education from the University of California. He is married to the former Lyndsay Graubard, and the couple has two children, Vedder and Willow.
The hiring of Watts completes the 10 on field position coach hires for Harsin and the Auburn football program. The breakdown on the defensive side of the ball is led by defensive coordinator and safeties coach Derek Mason, along with Jeff Schmedding (Linebackers and Defensive Run Game Coordinator), Zac Etheridge (Cornerbacks), Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line) and Watts (Outside Linebackers and Special Teams Coordinator). Of note with the Tiger defensive staff is that three of the members have previously served in a defensive coordinator role at an FBS school (Mason, Schmedding and Watts).
“We had a very detailed process in building this staff, and I truly believe we met the key objectives needed from a coach - being extremely good recruiters, teachers and leaders - in the hires that make up the Auburn football coaching staff,” said Harsin.
Offensively, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo was Harsin’s first coaching staff hire. Joining Harsin and Bobo on the offensive side of the ball are Will Friend (Offensive Line), Brad Bedell (Tight Ends), Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (Running Backs) and Cornelius Williams (Wide Receivers).
“Five of the staff members have 15 or more years of Division I on field coaching experience, so you have a very strong veteran presence on both sides of the ball,” Harsin said. “Both of our coordinators have been head coaches at FBS schools, and were coordinators at elite Power 5 programs.”
All told, Coach Harsin and Auburn’s 10 position coaches bring 168 combined years of on field coaching experience, 91 bowl games coached and 34 collective conference championships.
“Of the group, five have coached and recruited in the SEC, and understand what it takes to win in this conference. We were able to bring back two Auburn alumni who left a lasting impact on this program as players, and they join Cadillac Williams as first-class examples of what an Auburn Man is,” Harsin said. “But the biggest thing I’m excited about is that each of these coaches bring an intense passion for the game and the mindset to actively develop the young men – on and off the field – who will represent Auburn.”