In the six months since his arrival at Florida, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has earned a reputation among the Gator players as a "genius" with a critical eye for detail and a belief that nothing short of getting things exactly right is good enough. "As a coach you want to critique everything, you want everything to be perfect," receiver Frankie Hammond said. "From us making our routes, shortening it, making it too deep. All of that plays a part. You want to have expertise at your work, everybody wants to be perfect, and that's what he strives for. I would consider him a perfectionist." And a man who cares deeply about his players, a quality coach Will Muschamp said makes Weis a great complement to his staff.
"Charlie's experience speaks for itself, and his track record," Muschamp said. "I think him working with the players is probably his strongest point. And you really talk to people that played for him — whether it was Notre Dame or New England or Kansas City — the players have a great respect for him because he's all about the players. And he understands. He's hard on them, he's tough on them. It's tough love. But they have a great respect because he has answers when things don't go right. And that, to me, is what I've seen is … he comes from the same philosophical thinking that I do.
"It's about the team. It's not about stats. It's not about offense. It's about the football team and doing what we've got to do to be successful."
And it's about teaching. Shortly after he was hired, Weis said building strong relationships with players and helping them become young men is one of the main reasons he's drawn to the college game.
"I think the one thing you need to understand is an 18-year-old kid is not the same as a 22- or 23-year-old walking out the door,'' Weis said. "As any parent would know, probably the No. 1 thing that happens when your kid goes to college is they grow up. An 18-year-old kid is not like a rookie in the NFL. … They are 18 years old. They have gone where they are the big man on campus, walking around high school, sticking out their chest, everyone saying, 'You're the star.' So I think that by the time they matriculate through college, you start to see the sophomore year, the junior year, you start to see the changes as they start to get it. Watching them evolve, turning into the fine young men that most of them turn into, is really one of the most rewarding experiences you have as a college coach.''
While he's a nurturing influence off the field, Weis is also teaching players new schemes and concepts on the field.
"He's a genius," said guard Jon Halapio, a former St. Petersburg Catholic standout. "He just thinks of different ways of how to execute a play real good, with all 11 people — the easiest way to execute a good play. He's just a real good coach. He thinks of different schemes, where you can run the ball, different ways you can pass the ball, ways you can disguise this, disguise that. So that's how he coaches."
The transition hasn't always been easy. Hammond said there have been times when Weis' drive for perfection seems perplexing. But tight end Jordan Reed said players never question what Weis says because of his track record. He has proven what he can do. The Gators just need to follow his lead, they say, and good things will come.
"Coach Weis is a great coach," senior quarterback John Brantley said. "I mean his track record speaks for itself. He's coached some of the best quarterbacks ever to play. I'm just excited and honored to play for him. He is someone that can turn a good team into an even better team. We're all excited and glad to be playing for him."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her coverage at gators.tampabay.com.