ND Assistants Under Weis (Part 4)

The falloff following the 2005-06 seasons was precipitous. In his last 37 games, Weis lost 21 times as the run game struggled and the defense never improved significantly.

When Charlie Weis arrived as head coach of the Fighting Irish following Tyrone Willingham’s third and final season at Notre Dame in 2004, the 1978 graduate cleaned house, dismissing all nine Irish assistant coaches.

His first Notre Dame staff in 2005 had a little bit of everything in terms of Notre Dame ties, college affiliation and connections to the NFL, where Weis had spent the previous 15 years (1990-2004) with the New York Giants and New England Patriots.

2005 (9-3)

Offense
• OC/RB-Mike Haywood
• QB-Peter Vaas
• WR/RC-Rob Ianello
• Asst. HC/OL-John Latina
• TE-Bernie Parmalee

Defense
• DC/LB-Rick Minter
• DL-Jerome “Jappy” Oliver
• Asst. HC/DB-Bill Lewis

Special Teams
• ST/DB Asst.-Brian Polian

Weis’ first offensive coordinator was former Irish receiver/cornerback Mike Haywood, who returned to his alma mater following successful stints at LSU and Texas as running backs coach/special teams coordinator while earning a reputation as a dynamic recruiter.

Weis dipped back into Lou Holtz’s old Irish staffs and tabbed defensive coordinator Rick Minter and quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas. Minter had served as Holtz’s top defensive assistant at Notre Dame in 1992-93 while Vaas had been with the Irish in 1990-91.

Joining Haywood and Vaas on the offensive staff were:

-- Wide receiver coach Rob Ianello, who had coached tight ends at Wisconsin the previous two seasons.

-- John Latina, whose background included stops at Texas A&M, Kansas State, Clemson and Mississippi, where he had been the offensive coordinator in addition to his line duties the previous five seasons.

-- Bernie Parmalee, who had ties with Weis from his NFL days, arrived from a three-year stint coaching the tight ends with the Miami Dolphins.

Ianello also would coordinate the recruiting efforts while Latina held the title of assistant head coach.

Like Latina, defensive backs coach Bill Lewis arrived with the title of assistant head coach. Lewis had coordinated the Georgia defenses from 1981-88 before a nine-year stint in the NFL as the Dolphins nickel coach. 

Jerome “Jappy” Oliver had spent the previous 10 seasons coaching the defensive line at Air Force (1995-2002) and South Carolina (2003-04).

Weis chose 31-year-old Brian Polian – the son of NFL executive Bill Polian – to coordinate the special teams. Polian had spent the previous year coaching running backs and coordinating recruiting efforts for Central Florida.


Following Weis 9-3 debut season with the No. 8 scoring offense and No. 10 total offense, the unit slipped, averaging nearly 100 yards less despite the return of record-setting quarterback Brady Quinn and  wide receiver Jeff Samardzija.

Still, the Irish found ways to score (31.0 ppg.) and win with narrow victories over Georgia Tech (14-10), Michigan State (40-37) and UCLA (20-17).

2006 (10-3)

Offense
• OC/RB-Mike Haywood
• QB-Peter Vaas
• WR/RC-Rob Ianello
• Asst. HC/OL-John Latina
• TE-Bernie Parmalee

Defense
• DC/LB-Rick Minter
• DL-Jerome “Jappy” Oliver
• Asst. HC/DB-Bill Lewis

Special Teams
• ST/DB Asst.-Brian Polian


The only coaching change Weis made offensively following the ’06 season was to add more of a Notre Dame flavor to the staff. Weis picked former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus to take over an unsteady quarterback situation following Quinn’s brilliant career with the Irish. Keeping a veteran coach like Vaas may have aided the transitional state of the quarterback position.

Unhappy with a defense that ranked in the middle of the pack nationally in 2005-06, Weis ended Minter’s second two-year stint at Notre Dame by selecting the inexperienced Corwin Brown – another assistant with an NFL career overlapping Weis’ time in the professional ranks.

In retrospect, had Weis simply kept Minter, he might have avoided the chaos that would ensue on the defensive side of the football.

2007 (3-9)

Offense
• OC/RB-Mike Haywood
• QB-Ron Powlus
• WR/RC-Rob Ianello
• TE-Bernie Parmalee
• Asst. HC/OL-John Latina

Defense
• DC/LB-Corwin Brown
• DL-Jerome “Jappy” Oliver
• Asst. HC/DB-Bill Lewis
• ILB/ST-Brian Polian

The beginning of the end of the Weis era began in 2007 when the Irish went from a 19-6 mark in his first two years to a 3-9 record. Minus Quinn, the skill-position weapons and the loss of veteran offensive linemen Ryan Harris, Dan Santucci and Bob Morton, the offense fell apart.

Notre Dame finished 119th in total offense and 116th in scoring offense, due largely to a discombobulated quarterback situation. Demetrius Jones was picked to start at quarterback with freshman hotshot Jimmy Clausen waiting in the wings and sophomore Evan Sharpley in the mix.

It was hard to believe this was Weis’ offense, that’s how dramatic the fall was between 2006 and 2007. The Irish were held to 20 points or less in each of the first eight games, including a 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech in the opener, and matching 38-0 shutouts at the hands of Michigan and USC.

Notre Dame had to defeat Duke at home and Stanford on the road in the final two regular-season games to finish 3-9.


2008 (7-6)

Offense
• OC/RB-Mike Haywood
• QB-Ron Powlus
• WR/RC-Rob Ianello
• TE-Bernie Parmalee
• Asst. HC/OL-John Latina

Defense
• DC/DB-Corwin Brown
• Asst. HC/LB-Jon Tenuta
• DL-Jerome “Jappy” Oliver

Special Teams
• ST-Brian Polian

While the offensive staff had remained the same from 2007 to 2008, Weis had brought in veteran college defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jon Tenuta to assist Corwin Brown. A dreadful run defense had allowed 195 yards rushing per game in ’07 while opponents averaged 28.7 points – the most since 1956.

The Irish showed improvement in 2008 with Clausen taking over at quarterback on a full-time basis. Like most young quarterbacks, Clausen was interception-prone with 17 during his sophomore season. But he completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 3,172 yards with 25 touchdown tosses.

In the process, however, the running game – which averaged a paltry 75.7 yards rushing per game in ’07 – continued to suffer with a 109.7-yard average in ’08.

Tenuta’s arrival helped shave off about 30 yards and a touchdown per game allowed by the defense. A simple Tenuta-for-Brown exchange would have provided stability on the defensive side of the football.


2009 (6-6)

Offense
• QB-Ron Powlus
• RB-Tony Alford
• Asst. HC/WR/RC-Rob Ianello
• TE-Bernie Parmalee
• RG Coor./OL-Frank Verducci

Defense
• Assoc. HC/Co-DC/DB-Corwin Brown
• DC/LB-Jon Tenuta
• DL-Randy Hart

Special Teams
• ST-Brian Polian

With Haywood moving on to his first head-coaching opportunity at Miami (Ohio), Weis took it upon himself to coordinate the 2009 offense. Weis replaced Haywood with Louisville running backs coach Tony Alford, who would stay on when the Brian Kelly era began.

Offensive line coach John Latina’s time was up with the running game struggling as badly as it did. Frank Verducci, who had worked with three NFL organizations from 1999-2005, replaced Latina.

Weis also cut ties with defensive line coach Jappy Oliver, replacing him with veteran Pac-10/12 coach Randy Hart (Washington 1988-2008).

With Clausen at the controls, the offense improved its total offense by nearly 100 yards per game while scoring 30 points per game for the first time in three seasons.

Clausen was brilliant during his third and final season in the program, throwing for 3,722 yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions while completing a remarkable 68 percent of his throws. Golden Tate emerged as one of the top Irish receivers in Notre Dame history, catching 93 passes for a school-record 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns.

But it wasn’t enough nearly. The defense allowed nearly 400 yards per game, including 170 on the ground, and when the Irish dropped all four of their November games by a total of 17 points -- including its second straight home loss to Navy and an overtime setback to Connecticut -- Weis’ die had been cast.


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