BOONE, N.C. – Justin Watts has been elevated to assistant head coach, App State head football coach Shawn Clark announced Wednesday.
Entering his seventh season as an App State assistant, Watts will continue to serve as the program’s recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach.
Watts has helped the Mountaineers capture four Sun Belt championships (2016-19) and become the first FBS program to win six straight bowl games in its first six years of bowl eligibility (2015-20).
Watts spent four seasons (2015-18) as the Mountaineers’ wide receivers coach and coached the tight ends in both 2019, when App State had a top-10 scoring offense en route to a 13-1 record and Top 20 ranking in the final polls, as well as 2020, when App State went 9-3.
Despite serious injuries to its top three tight ends, and playing one game with none of its top five tight ends, Watts developed the talent and depth to help App State’s tight ends catch 24 passes with five touchdowns over the final seven games and block well enough to contribute to the team’s No. 6 ranking in rushing yards per game (264.9). Tight ends accounted for five of App State’s nine receptions in the Myrtle Beach Bowl win, as Henry Pearson had two touchdown catches, giving him four over the final six games.
From a recruiting standpoint, according to the 247Sports database, the program’s 2021 signing class is ranked first among Sun Belt Conference schools and sixth among Group of Five schools. With all 22 December 2020 signees earning a three-star rating from 247Sports, the average player rating of 83.08 is also the school’s best mark.
The Mountaineers posted an overall FBS class ranking of 64th, the highest-ranked App State class by 247Sports since the FBS climb, and eight of the 15 highest-rated App State recruits in the history of the 247Sports rankings are members of the 2021 class.
At the time, the 18-player recruiting class signed in 2019 included three of the six highest-rated commitments in App State’s FBS history, and the 2020 class was also the highest-rated class in the program’s FBS history. At the time, it possessed four of the Mountaineers’ 10 highest-graded prospects since the move to the FBS level.
Watts has played a key role in developing five Mountaineer receivers who have earned all-conference honors during his tenure – Shaedon Meadors, Ike Lewis, Corey Sutton, Thomas Hennigan and Malik Williams.
The Mountaineers’ offense – under three different coordinators during Watts’ time on the mountain – has consistently ranked among the best in the Sun Belt and the nation. The rushing attack has finished in the top 25 in yards per game every year, including sixth in 2015 and 2020 and 10th in 2016. App State has boasted the league’s top scoring offense twice in 2018 and 2019, when the Mountaineers were No. 17 and No. 9 in the FBS, respectively.
Watts came to App State from Middle Tennessee, where he served as wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator for nine seasons from 2006-14. During his time at Middle, he helped lead the Blue Raiders to four bowl berths, three eight-win seasons and a Sun Belt Conference championship (2006).
He also had coaching stops at Clemson (2001-02 as a graduate assistant) and Chattanooga (2003-05 as wide receivers coach).
Watts was a five-year football letterwinner from 1996-2000 at Clemson, where he caught 51 passes for 561 yards during his career and was honored as a scholar-athlete at the 1999 Peach Bowl awards luncheon. The Tigers earned bowl berths during four of his five seasons on the squad. He received a B.S. in sports management from Clemson in 2000.
A Florence, S.C. native, Watts and his wife, Lauren, have a son, Chase, and a daughter, Kendall.