Photo by Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Football

USF HC Jeff Scott "Fired Up" For Notre Dame, Focused On Big Picture

September 15, 2020

Back in 2014, when the ACC announced that Clemson would travel to South Bend in 2020, then-Tiger assistant coach Jeff Scott took notice.

“South Bend has been one of the few places I’ve never been to as a coach being around and traveling with teams since I was 8, 9 years old,” Scott explained, referencing the fact that he’s been around the game his entire life with his father serving as a longtime Florida State and Clemson assistant with a five-year stint as South Carolina’s head coach in between.

In fact, his father was the Seminoles’ offensive coordinator for the Notre Dame-Florida State game in 1993, Scott’s first memory of the atmosphere surrounding Irish football.

“I can remember I was about 12 years old sitting in front of the TV,” he said.

So, he was “very excited” about getting a chance to coach at Notre Dame in 2020, but that was before he took the head coaching job at South Florida last December.

“The day after I took this job, reality hit me that I’m not going to be able to go to South Bend,” said Scott.

But with COVID-19 turning every schedule across the country into a jigsaw puzzle just weeks before the start of the season, the Irish and South Florida found they fit and locked in a contest for the second weekend of September.

“Now, I am going to South Bend, I’m just taking the Bulls instead,” said Scott. “I’m fired up about it.

“To have the opportunity to go and coach up in that stadium is definitely one I’m going to cherish.”

After winning his first head coaching debut last week, a 27-6 win over The Citadel, Scott knows he’s facing a mammoth task against the Irish this weekend.

“There’s no doubt this will be as big a challenge as we face in a long time,” said Scott.

He expects his players to be able to be loose and free as they’re playing with “house money.”

“I’m looking forward to the day, where we have a chance to play in a game like this and are expected to win the game,” said Scott. “We’re not there yet at all.

“When you’re a four-touchdown underdog, the goal of the game is for it to still be a game in the fourth quarter and then all of that pressure moves to that other sideline. I’ve been on that other side before, I’ve been in some of those games…I know exactly how that is.”

At the same time, he’s not trying to make the game out to be bigger than it is for his program. He isn’t even sure his players know the connection their offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis Jr., has to Notre Dame.

“I probably need to tell them so that they’re aware,” Scott laughed.

Scott has told his team they don’t need to play “perfect” to beat the Irish, but did acknowledge they’ll have to play “very, very well.”

“I believe in being honest with your players,” he said. “I’m not a guy when play somebody who is not very good and comes in and makes them sound like the ’84 Bears. I’m honest with them.

“I’ve also never gone into a game where I didn’t believe we could win. That’s also a mindset. That attitude and belief. You have to believe before you can achieve…Without that, you have zero chance. Our guys know exactly the type of challenge they have in front of them.”

It’s also clear Scott is still focusing on building the program on a macro level - “We’re really just coaching our guys on how we practice on Tuesday,” - as much as a micro level.

“Our messaging to our players has always been and will always be that, ‘Hey, it’s about us…It’s not about who we play, it’s about how we play,’” he says. “Well, if all of a sudden, you go play a really big team like Notre Dame and all of a sudden, you start talking about Notre Dame, then, they raise their hand and said, ‘Coach, I thought you said it’s not about who we play?’ You have to be consistent.

“I’m more interested in seeing how our players respond against a very talented opponent on the road than I am worried about the scoreboard and all of that kind of stuff. Obviously, we want to win the game. That’s what we’re going up there to do, but there are so many things right now for us that we’re focusing on more than worrying about what the score is by quarter and by halftime or whatever.

“By and large, you worry about what you’re doing in front of you and look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and you’ll be able to learn how you did.”

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.