Phil Longo looks to bring his success in his air-raid system from Sam Houston State and implement it at Ole Miss as he was officially announced as offensive coordinator on Friday.
Longo threw up staggering numbers during his time at Sam Houston State. In this past year in the FCS, Longo’s team finished No. 1 in total offense, tallying 547.3 ypg.
His offense consisted of a balanced attack between the pass and the run, as his team averaged 368.3 ypg through the air and 179.0 ypg on the ground. The Bearkats finished with 4,788 passing yards and 2,327 rushing yards. Perhaps Longo’s greatest attribute is his red zone efficiency. In Longo’s three years as offensive coordinator at Sam Houston State, he recorded 145 red zone touchdowns, greater than any FBS team. He also helped lead the team to three FCS Playoffs appearances and broke numerous school records.
“As I searched through all of the candidates, it was very clear that the one that had the best fit with us was Phil Longo. Phil’s bringing in his terminology. It puts us more in a great structure. It’ll be his structure, and the great thing about Phil is that he’s the ultimate learner. It will be his offense to call. He has the understanding of it and has the instinctive nature for it,” Hugh Freeze said.
With Longo having full reign over the offense, he plans on developing the team in his own vision, but he also noted that many of the aspects of his system and Freeze’s offense do overlap, which will complement them both. Longo, while mostly noted for his air-raid offense, has the ability to produce on the ground, which will add the splash of balance that Ole Miss desires.
“To win at any level, you have to be able to run the football. I want to run the football downhill,” Longo said. “In 2014 and 2015, we rushed for just under 4,000 yards in each season. The offense is not nearly as dominated by the RPO approach as people think,”
Longo also said personnel is a key factor in enabling him to produce at the level needed. Ole Miss was without two of its key running backs in Jordan Wilkins and Eric Swinney in the 2016 campaign. Longo said he believes he can recruit some of the best running backs in the nation and that he has the system to help them produce at their full potential.
He said he will not have to teach much but will instead focus on incorporating his terminology in regards to running the offense. He highlighted the success that freshman quarterback Shea Patterson had as well and how he will work to help him succeed. Longo wants to simplify the game for the quarterback instead of having him worry about seven aspects of the game at once. He delegates responsibilities to other position players. He emphasized that his receivers call out most of the coverages the defense has in play to the quarterback.
“Patterson is blessed on both ends. He reminds me a lot of Johnny Manziel,” Longo said. “Excited to have a guy that is extremely well-rounded. His is the most important position on the field, and with the level of responsibility we put on him, it handicaps him. That is why I delegate responsibility between players.”
Freeze said one of the brightest things about Longo is his desire to learn.
He has high praise from Washington State head coach Mike Leach and Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, to whom he credits much of his success and learning of how to control offenses.
With Longo behind the play calling this upcoming year, Ole Miss’ tendencies will likely differ from past seasons. Freeze said he wanted balance and simplicity.
If Longo can achieve the same success he had within the structure of his system at Sam Houston, Freeze will have gotten just that.