UNC’s Evolution of the Air Raid: Why the System Being Implemented at Chapel Hill is Breaking the Mold

Jun 25, 2019 | Offense, Air Raid, Offensive Systems

By Mike Kuchar
Co-Founder/Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikeKKuchar


To most college football fans, the name Longo may not resonate with other Air Raid associations like Leach, Holgorsen or Riley. But the truth is he not only belongs in that same category but also may be carving out a niche for himself in today’s era of the Air Raid disciples. For those that don’t know the new offensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina, for nearly 30 years his version of the Air Raid has produced astronomical numbers at every level of football. He’s orchestrated a top-ten offense nationally from Division 3 William Patterson University (NJ) to Division 2 Slippery Rock University (PA) to FCS level Sam Houston State University (TX) where his Bearcats averaged 531 yards per game and 41 points per game producing two-time Walton Peyton Award winner in quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe.

And as recently as last season while as the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, his unit finished in the top seven nationally in three separate categories- total offense (510 ypg) passing offense (346 ypg) and yards per play (7.1)

So, when someone with the digital Rolodex the size of Mack Brown came calling, many pundits were surprised he made Longo his selection. Even Brown himself admittedly thought outside of the box when making the hire. “I wanted to find someone who has done more with less and that was Phil,” Brown told us. “He’s taken lesser players and beaten better teams.” While the hire may have been unpredictable, the root of Brown’s selection process was not: he wanted a coordinator who had a complete grasp of the system that his counterpart at Texas Tech Mike Leach used against him for 15 years in the Big 12.

Brown couldn’t have gotten any closer to hiring a Leach protégé than Longo. He and Leach have a relationship dating back to Leach’s days as the offensive coordinator at Kentucky. Longo gloats when he talks about packing up his 4-Runner and making the nine-hour drive from north Jersey to Lexington. Fueled on Taco Bell and taking periodic stops at gas stations to shower was well worth the sacrifice to hear Leach talk about his offense at his coaching clinic, where Longo’s persistence in asking questions eventually picked up on Leach’s radar. “I outlasted everyone in the room,” he said. “It was a complete grind, but making that trip was the best decision I’ve ever made.” The two have remained close friends since, even while butting heads on the recruiting trail- Briscoe was a Leach decommit before ending up at Sam Houston.

But the linear lines that connect these two coaches systems veer off when it comes to one distinct difference in philosophy: the onus of responsibility in Longo’s Air Raid is alleviated from the quarterback and placed on the receivers.

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