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Phil Longo offers Ole Miss a new flavor of tempo

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The new coordinator is about to redefine the term “hurry-up” in Oxford.

Mississippi v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

At this point, we have a general understanding of how Phil Longo’s offense is going to operate schematically. We’re fully aware that while the core is young, it’s a room filled with unprecedented talent and depth. To recite the depth chart this late in the offseason wouldn’t be a constructive exercise, and no one would learn much of anything.

What’s left is discussing the rhythm element of Longo’s system that, while it isn’t a secret, still isn’t fully appreciated. The new coordinator plans to shatter an already high standard in Oxford in terms of quick cadence with some ideas of his own. Obviously, the hurry-up approach isn’t new to Ole Miss, but Longo takes things to another level.

Measuring and comparing tempo across teams with widely varying styles of play is tricky. Teams that run the ball a good amount, like Navy, are going to see more time tick off the clock in between plays. Conversely, pass-happy squads enjoy more stoppage, so there needs to be some way to account for different offensive personalities when looking at pace.

Here's a detailed description for how adjusted pace is calculated, but the general idea is to take the difference between seconds per play and what we might expect based on their run rate.

Over the past two years, Longo has commanded offenses on both ends of the spectrum, having run the ball 57 percent of time in 2015 and just 45 percent this past season. He’s demonstrated an ability to adapt to the strengths of his players, but that hasn’t kept him from running the show at Paul Westhead-type speed.

Here’s how the Rebels have ranked tempo-wise recently, along with where Sam Houston State would have stood if they were an FBS school.

Team Year Run Rate Adjusted Pace Rank
Team Year Run Rate Adjusted Pace Rank
Sam Houston State 2015 57% 5th
Ole Miss 2015 43% 55th
Sam Houston State 2016 45% 15th
Ole Miss 2016 44% 41st

By design, Ole Miss didn’t let much time drain in between plays, but part of their high standing in raw seconds per play was due to throwing so often and causing the clock to stop a good amount. The adjusted pace metric slightly punished them for that. Sam Houston State’s offense, on the other hand, presents a different story once the full context is considered.

People tend to reference the gaudy numbers that Longo produced in 2016 more so than the year prior, but 2015 was impressive in its own right. That season, the Bearkats (DON’T CORRECT MY SPELLING) stayed on the ground more than most teams, yet still allowed on average just barely over 20 seconds of clock to go by before the next snap. They would have ranked in the top five in adjusted pace that year.

A few months ago, I mentioned the possibility that Longo could blend tempo with ball control, and this kind of consistency in terms of getting plays off rapidly regardless of the situation is half the battle. Given the Rebels’ player personnel, they’re going to be a pass-happy team, but if they’re able to find any success in the running game, it’s good to know that the staff can take advantage without sacrificing speed.

If Ole Miss is hoping to surprise folks this year, it’s going to come from overwhelming defenses with lightning-quick drives. Perhaps there was a time when it was valid to consider the drawbacks in running a hurry-up scheme, the main one being the risk of exhausting the team’s own defense in the event of multiple three-and-outs from the offense, but that time is over.

This is the season of chaos, and to hope for a more orthodox style of play would be incredibly lame. When scanning over the weapons the new play-caller has to work with, it’s hard not to conclude that there couldn’t be a more wonderful time for there to be a bowl ban and for nothing to matter.