By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager/Co-Founder
Editor’s Note: In order to provide background context on how Coach Longo implements his projected 95% efficiency method in game planning, we felt it necessary to give a brief overview of his offensive system in this course.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth look at Coach Longo’s system, more research can be found here.
Efficiency: it’s the basis of Coach Longo’s offensive system. We will not use “simple,” even though simple does come with a positive connotation among football coaches. It’s efficient. We all want our systems to be simple for our players to absorb but the challenge becomes making the presentation complex to the defense. Over the last thirty plus years as an offensive coordinator at all levels of football, Coach Longo has found a way to balance those two priorities in producing a top ten offense nationally six times in his coaching career. This includes being in the top five the last four consecutive seasons at Sam Houston State (TX) and University of Mississippi respectively. Now as he prepares for his first season calling the shots at the University of North Carolina, he continues to hone his system around new personnel and new opponents.
It was this past season while he was in Oxford (MS) when we had an opportunity to mirror how this system is translated into his game week preparation and game day protocols. We started with the premise of shadowing an FBS offensive coordinator to explore the procedures he and his staff use during game week. What we initially found was that the process isn't that much different than at your high school or mine. Sure, the resources are greater, but his process hasn’t changed much. And as we continued to dig deeper into his process, we found one common threat in our research: he is exceptional at trimming the fat in his game planning. He doesn’t carry a lot of formations or concepts. He only carries the great ones, or as he calls the 95 percenters into game day. This is the process behind how he crafts, selects and calls those plays on game day. It’s a procedure that has yielded one of the country’s most efficient offenses- finishing in the top 10 nationally in yards per play the last two seasons.
Model of Efficiency:
After studying Coach Longo’s system twice, it’s clear that his success has a good deal in part with the “simplicity” of his system. Coaches all talk about cutting things down, but Coach Longo and his staff strive to abide by it. A streamlined system makes things easier to operate on game day. The fewer things you do on offense, the quicker it is to make corrections. "A defense can only do a certain number of things and we would like to think we have a good feel for anticipating what those things are,” he told us. The top game day coaches know how to adjust in real time and what smoother way to make these adjustments than to have the answers before they are presented on the field?
Coach Longo’s system has some of these answers. They are developed through a process that is repeated over and over again each game week. As he told us, the offense stays 80% the same regardless of the week it's just the opponent that changes. Sure, he may add a couple of weekly tweaks but the philosophy remains steadfast: take space where you can get it. This means there are really no “call it and run it” scenarios in this offense. The quarterback is given choices and is expected to make those choices based on where space presents itself.
This space is generated in two distinct ways: defensive structure and defensive personnel. Coach Longo spends more time understanding common principles of defenses than focusing on who the defensive coordinator is. Coach Longo attacks defenses by classifications, such as cover four match teams, cover one team or pressure teams, etc. which is revealed more in Course 2. How the defender's individual personality reacts to the concepts he presents is even of greater interest to him. As he told us, "a cover two corner may play cover two an entirely separate way than the corner on the other side of the field. How he reacts to things dictate my play calls."
50/50 Balance is Not a Priority:
His approach differs from other coordinators who try to stress having run/pass balance. Yes, he is an Air Raid coach by nature, but it's more important to take what defenses give him. He'd rather throw an eight-yard bubble route than pound the ball into loaded boxes. On game day, he doesn’t calculate touches for his top players- even though he’s had a receiver in the top ten nationally in receptions the last two seasons. The system is about building in options within the play call that are best for that particular situation. “We want to give the ball wherever you’re going to give up space,” he told us. And that alone produces ball distribution. “Even if the number four receiver is not as good as the number three receiver, he can still catch the ball and hurt the defense. When you distribute the ball to all the players, the defense needs to defend all the players. And when a defense overplays one from a human nature standpoint or scheme, you are giving up grass somewhere else and all those guys are taught to attack the open grass.”
In this course, we wanted to present a general overview of Coach Longo's offense. We thought it was important to understand how the system is built in order to understand how he game plans or makes his adjustments on game day. His offense can be categorized into the following:
- 3 base formations
- 3 motions
- 5 formation tags
- 5 backfield sets