GAINESVILLE — When Florida football coach Will Muschamp began his search for a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, he knew exactly what he wanted. And exactly whom he wanted.
"I wanted someone with pro and college experience," Muschamp said. "I wanted an outstanding play-caller and a great developer of quarterbacks. And there's no better than Charlie Weis."
In the wake of this past season's struggling and predictable offense, Florida fans are hoping Weis is the answer. And quarterback John Brantley, who is returning, hopes Weis is the key to resurrecting his career.
The former Notre Dame coach, who was most recently the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator, arrived in Gainesville late Thursday and has not spoken publicly about the job since he accepted it two weeks ago. Yet expectations are high surrounding what he might bring to the Gators.
Weis is most often associated with the term "pro-style" offense, but what does that mean for the Gators?
"I think you'll find that it probably involves extensive recognition of defenses prior to the snap, extensive variety of plays, and at the same point and time it's much more of a quarterback with his hands underneath the center in dropback mode," said Peter Vaas, the USF quarterbacks coach who coached under Weis at Notre Dame. "You wouldn't associate spread offense terminology with what Coach Weis has done in the past."
This past season, Florida played three quarterbacks: dropback passer Brantley, wildcat specialist Trey Burton and former quarterback-turned-tight end Jordan Reed. Despite considering a transfer, Brantley enrolled for the spring semester, and his father wrote via text message Friday that his son will stay with the Gators.
"I know Coach Weis, when I was around him, would have various offensive packages for the talents and abilities of the quarterbacks that were there, depending upon what each kid could do well," Vaas said. "So if a kid was a running quarterback, he would have a specific package for that individual. But his forte is a pro style, where it's extensive reading and recognition and that type of thing. Charlie Weis is an incredibly intelligent football mind. And he's going to challenge himself and all of those around him to be creative."
Those who know Weis say the quarterback needs to be strong and thick-skinned. And he must be smart; Weis' playbooks have been likened to the size of a phone book.
"I think with Charlie, the most important thing to remember is the quarterback is an extension of him on the field more than anywhere that I've seen," said John Walters, a college football writer who has covered Notre Dame for NBC Sports and AOL Fanhouse for the past five years. "And you have to understand who he is. Charlie is not a person who played college football. And I think he brings to his coaching, and what he wants to see on the field, the way he would beat somebody. He is smarter than a lot of people, and that's what he's always relied on.
"So the first thing you need is a quarterback who can manifest what he's thinking," Walters added. " … He plays the game like a chess game in the sense of I'm not going to bowl over you; I'm going to figure out a way to beat you so that you can't catch up quick enough with what I'm doing."
Initially, Weis might have to adjust to what he has. But ultimately, expect the offense that earned former coach Urban Meyer two national championships in four years to become a thing of the past.
"What you're going to get as a play-caller is a very aggressive style of play-calling," ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "And unlike the style of offense in this era of the spread attack, which Florida is very, very familiar with of course with Urban Meyer, this is going to be more of a pro-style offense, where you have a tight end, you have a fullback. Kind of like the offenses you watch when you turn on the NFL."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.