Florida’s New Look – A look into Charlie Weis’s offense

Urban Meyer left the sidelines in 2010, after just 6 years on the job. However, his spread offense shredded SEC defenses and put 2 national titles in Florida’s hands. However, with his departure, some things have changed up. Will Muschamp was hired as the head coach, in a somewhat controversial fashion. Along with him, he brings Charlie Weis into the fold as his offensive coordinator. Weis, a lifelong pro-style coach, was fired from Notre Dame after the ’09 season due to subpar results on the field, including a 3-9 debacle in 2007 that had Notre Dame fans in a raging fit.

Former ND coach, Florida OC

Weis during a Notre Dame game.

Weis is no doubt better suited for the NFL. He’s used to working with guys who already understand the game at an elite level, rather than guys who still have some learning to do. But, I think his second foray into the college game can be successful, because of his abilities as a coordinator.

Enough with the talk, let’s get to what really matters; the numbers.

New England Patriots Era

Tom Brady(QB for New England Patriots) - Charlie Weis(OC for NE 00-04)

Charlie Weis gives coaching to Tom Brady

Any statistical breakdown of the Weis era has got to start where he made his fame, and that is with the New England Patriots dynasty. He served as the offensive coordinator from 2000-2004, and is credited with helping make Tom Brady into an elite QB. First off, let’s look at the plays per 6 points scored, and compare that to the Super Bowl champion of the seasons when New England didn’t win it.

2000 – 22.54 PP6ps – 2000 Ravens – 19.06 PP6ps

2001 – 16.19 PP6ps – Patriots Won Super Bowl

2002 – 16.24 PP6ps – 2002 Buccaneers – 17.72 PP6ps

2003 – 17.97 PP6ps – Patriots Won Super Bowl

2004 – 14.21 PP6ps – Patriots Won Super Bowl

Weis’s offense definitely improved from year one to year two, which isn’t too suprising. What takes me back is the fact that in 2002, his team scored more often than the Super Bowl champion, and in 2004, his team put up what is likely to be an absolutely crushing PP6ps.

Weis was then hired at Notre Dame in 2005….

Notre Dame Era

Most Notre Dame fans are probably thinking this is a slam dunk when Charlie Weis is hired. Heck, he just had an offense that was amazingly good in the NFL, and had been part of building a dynasty at New England. No reason for him to be bad in the simple, simple game of college football. Right?

Again, same drill as the pros. I take the team he had, and compare them with the national champion that year.

2005 – 12.89 PP6ps – 2005 Texas – 8.66 PP6ps

2006 – 13.31 PP6ps – 2006 Florida – 12.62 PP6ps

2007 – 25.16 PP6ps – 2007 LSU – 11.69 PP6ps

2008 – 16.50 PP6ps – 2008 Florida – 8.58 PP6ps

2009 – 14.09 PP6ps – 2009 Alabama – 12.65 PP6ps

First thing that jumps off the page is how dreadful the ’07 Notre Dame team’s offense was. Considering an average possession lasts about 5 plays, and his offense took 25 to score a TD, it took him about 5 possessions, around 40-45% of a game’s actual possession count to score the value of a touchdown.

Second thing you’ll notice is how good his ’05 and ’06 teams were offensively. ’05 and ’06 were his two best years at Notre Dame, as the Irish went to two BCS games. It is important to note that Notre Dame’s offense was actually decent in ’08 and ’09, however, their lack of talent was to blame for a 13-12 run over Notre Dame’s final two years under him.

(The 2008 and 2009 Notre Dame defense had a PP6pa(plays per 6 points allowed) of 14.87 in 2009, and 17.75 in 2008)

So, can he recruit would be the one question that Florida fans might ask. Well, I decided to compile Rivals rankings over the 5 year period that he was coach. 2006-2010 are used because those are the years in which Weis had most or all the year to himself to recruit. Ranking is listed alongside average stars a prospect had…

2006 – #8(3.46) – #1 was USC(3.81)

2007 – #8(3.72) – #1 was Florida(3.89)

2008 – #2(3.96) – #1 was Alabama(3.72)

2009 – #21(3.44) – #1 was Alabama(3.81)

2010 – #14(3.39) – #1 was USC(4.20)

Average recruiting rank of 10.6. Average star rating of 3.59. #1’s averaged a star rating of 3.89.

So, we can see that he brought some talent in. What he did with it still could be debated. These conclusions could be drawn from the data so far.

  • That Charlie Weis is an NFL guy and could fail in college again.
  • That Charlie Weis couldn’t win with some pretty good talent on his side
  • That Charlie Weis has a system that most college kids don’t understand.
  • Or, Charlie Weis is a brilliant offensive mind that is more suited for a coordinator spot instead of running the whole show.
  • Maybe Weis had trouble adjusting to the college game, and could now know what to expect from it. And let’s face it, Notre Dame isn’t exactly the place to learn how to be a college football coach. It’s a place that you better have the know-how to compete right away.
Head Coach for Florida(2005-2009)

Meyer's teams were dominant and fun to watch

Now, to the second part of this data, we see how well Urban Meyer’s team did over the same span that Weis was coaching

2005 Florida – 14.69 PP6ps – 2005 Notre Dame – 12.89 PP6ps

2006 Florida – 12.62 PP6ps – 2006 Notre Dame – 13.31 PP6ps

2007 Florida – 9.22 PP6ps – 2007 Notre Dame – 25.16 PP6ps

2008 Florida – 8.58 PP6ps – 2008 Notre Dame – 16.50 PP6ps

2009 Florida – 10.98 PP6ps – 2009 Notre Dame – 14.09 PP6ps

Florida bettered Notre Dame 4 out of the 5 years that Weis was on the job in South Bend. And even Meyer’s 2010 team, who finished quite low by Florida standards, had a better offense than Weis’s.

(The 2010 Gators had a PP6ps of 13.67, bettering Weis’s 2007, 2008, and 2009 teams)

The decision to play a pro style offense might be a good one. The line is fairly young, with no seniors.

Here is the projected starting offensive linemen for the ’11 Gators…

  • LT – Chaz Green – 6’5″, 289 – RS Freshman
  • LG – Johotthan Harrison – 6’3″ 300 – RS Sophomore
  • C – Sam Robey – 6’3″, 302 – RS Junior
  • RG – Jon Halapio – 6’3″, 303 – RS Sophomore
  • RT – Xavier Nixon – 6’6″, 290 – Junior

The backs and receivers for the Gators in 2011 are a little raw, but undoubtedly are talented.

QB for Florida Gators

Brantley needs to step up production in 2011 in order for Gators to compete

If this Florida team is going to win the SEC East this year, they’re going to need John Brantley to play better than he did in 2010. His adjusted yards per attempt rate him at about the 99th best in the country in 2010, behind guys like Diondre Borel of Utah State, Marc Verica of Virginia, and Nate Enderle of Idaho, and places him as about the 11th best QB in the SEC in 2010.

Chris Rainey is Florida’s #1 back right now, and he better get used to the extra workload that could be placed on him. His peak year in ’09 saw him only get 89 carries, with 84 the previous year. By comparison, starting backs in Weis’s offense saw anywhere from 121-255 carries. That’s around 32-166 more carries a year, which averages out to Rainey getting the ball (if we use the lowest number a back in Weis’s offense(121) got combined with the amount of plays that ’09 Notre Dame called) once every 7 plays, compared to the once every 10+ plays that he got at Florida.

The Gators are returning 8 starters on offense, but it’s not like any of that matters with the installation of a pro-style offense. Everyone is a freshman right now for them, so a first year hiccup is not only expected, but probably likely. If Florida finishes behind Tennessee or Georgia in the Eastern division of the SEC, I wouldn’t be surprised. Both of those teams have continuity along with good talent and good coaching staffs. However, I fully expect Florida to be a nationally competitive team for years to come.

It’s just that it might take until 2012 for them to really hit their stride and become that great team that we’re all so familiar with.

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