Charlie Weis Jr. remembers Notre Dame fondly, despite how his five years living in South Bend ended for his father. In no small part, that disposition traces to the fact that the Irish sidelines were very much where his trajectory to becoming the youngest offensive coordinator in Division I football began.
“Those games were everything to me back then, living and dying by every game, probably too much,” the first-year South Florida offensive coordinator said to Jac Collinsworth on NBC Sports’ ND on NBC Podcast. “Just great times, great opportunities. I can’t believe I was holding up [defensive identification signs] at a young age. That was crazy. Don’t think I messed it up ever.”
Teenagers are not usually tasked with telling the defense what offensive package they are facing. Even if it is only a relay role, from the coaches in the box to the players on the field, the context begins to seep in. Weis was on his way to following in his father’s footsteps as Charlie Weis Sr. first found success at Notre Dame before finding the adversity of a 16-21 stretch in his final three years.
Weis’ tenure was marked by quarterback play more than most coaches’, starting with the stardom of Brady Quinn before an abrupt pivot to the tumult and talent of Jimmy Clausen. If the younger Weis has taken anything from his father’s approach to football and tried to apply it wholesale, it is how he handled those personalities at the game’s most important position.
“How he handled quarterbacks, in terms of the true football side of things, how he coached them, how he taught them, not just teaching them their responsibilities, but understanding not just what they’re doing, but how it fits into the scheme as a whole,” Weis Jr. said. “… From the football side of things, those things still relate, no matter what your scheme is.”
That deference aside, make no mistake, the two Weis differ on scheme, just like any millennial will approach things differently than his Baby Boomer father.
“He might be a little bit more old school; maybe I’m a little bit more new school,” said Weis Jr., the coordinator behind Florida Atlantic’s fast-paced offense last season that averaged 36.4 points per game, No. 14 in the country, and 448.6 yards per game, No. 23 in the country. “… He watches the tape and he’s like, ‘What are you guys doing? You’re not even blocking this guy. Why are you doing that?’
“Different game nowadays, I guess.”
It was in his final game with FAU that Weis Jr. thinks he started to finally escape his father’s shadow. To be fair, some of that perceived shadow was actually the shadows of others Weis Jr. has worked with, names like Bill Belichick, Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin. The last of those left FAU before the bowl game, heading to take over as head coach at Mississippi, removing any safety net for Weis Jr., real or imagined by others. The Owls hung 52 points on Southern Methodist, gaining 521 yards, all without numerous key pieces of offensive personnel.
“I was kind of on my own for that one, having a really good performance that day, maybe that was it for some people,” he said. “Still have to earn it and work my way as time goes on.”
Just like all things, it can be baffling that time has gone on such that only 11 years later, Weis Jr. is leading an offense of whom much is expected. That sentiment might hit him, too, as kickoff approaches Saturday (2:30 ET; USA Network).
“It’ll come a little full circle,” he told Collinsworth. “That’s where I felt like I started getting my intro to coaching and what I wanted to do. Now getting to do it on a big stage is certainly a really cool moment. It’ll be a little weird hearing the ‘Fight Song’ and not being on the sideline, but once the ball gets kicked off, it’ll be a fun game.”
Collinsworth and Weis also discussed how one brief scouting conversation with then-Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott led to a job interview, the list of mentors Scott now joins and what South Florida personnel will most worry Notre Dame.
The podcast should be available for download from all your podcast listening services, including Apple Podcasts.
In a surprise to no one, Weis Jr. has been the focus of a few Notre Dame beat writers this week, with each profile featuring a slightly different side of him.
Charlie Weis Jr. Earns Right To Make His Own Mark — On his growth as a coach, particularly noting how many notable names have already actively played a role in it.
At the heart of the matter, sister inspires Charlie Weis Jr.’s coaching climb — On some of Weis Jr.’s personal growth, including how and when he met his wife, a nice side effect of Notre Dame firing Weis Sr.
Charlie Weis Jr. Returns To Notre Dame, Where His Coaching Career Began — On Weis Jr.’s high school years, by someone who was there.