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The numbers say Phil Longo’s Ole Miss offense will take a big step forward in 2018

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Throughout his career, Longo’s offenses have shown dramatic improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re able to summon the willpower to recall the 2017 Ole Miss football season, you may remember the lone bright spot being an offense that spent the last half of the season turning into an attack that gave the team a chance to overcome its inability to conduct defense. By the time Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State to end the season, the offense produced a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver, installed a new mayor in Starkville, and broke into the top 10 in S&P+ offense.

Those numbers are made even more impressive when you consider it was accomplished in Year 1 of a new offense, a new head coach, and a transfer quarterback from the New Mexico Military Institute parachuting in during the seventh game of the season. Upon reflection, HOW DID WE LIVE TO TELL THE TALE?

Based on the players and production returning, particularly the quarterback, offensive line, and receivers, there is a considerable degree of well-founded optimism that the offense will be even better in 2018. There’s also the precedent offensive coordinator Phil Longo has set at his previous stints as an offensive coordinator.

Across Longo’s various career stops, his offenses have routinely shown dramatic improvement between Years 1 and 2. Using the power of Google searches and dedication of people who take the time to keep extensive statistics for the lower divisions of college football, I was able to compile the stats and rankings of Longo’s offense from all but one of his offensive coordinator jobs* prior to Ole Miss. And thanks to the majesty of spreadsheets, we can look, side by side, at the growth of his offenses from Year 1 to Year 2.

*Sorry to disappoint, but I have nothing from Minnesota-Duluth (2006-2007). Please send your grievances and stats you inevitably find on Minnesota-Duluth to spam@redcuprebellion.com.

Southern Illinois

Category Year 1 - 2008 (9-3) Year 2 - 2009 (11-2)
Category Year 1 - 2008 (9-3) Year 2 - 2009 (11-2)
Scoring Offense 32nd (29.42 pts/game) 7th (34.0)
Total Offense 56th (356 yds/game) 21st (394.85)
Rushing Offense 36th (169.25) 455 atts. 56.7% of plays 5th (221.08) 527 atts. 64.1% of plays
Passing Offense 64th (186.75) 348 atts. 43.4% of plays 78th (173.7) 295 atts. 35.9% of plays
Passing Efficiency 71st (121.37) 24th (138.64)
3rd Down Percentage 82nd (35.19%) 43rd (40%)
Red Zone Scoring 80th (74%) 17 rush TDs 8 pass TDs 40th (82%) 21 rush TDs 9 pass TDs
*out of 118 teams

As you can see, THINGS JUMPED UP A BIT. What’s really interesting is that the running game exploded, while the passing attack was dialed down but became more efficient. It’s almost like Longo knew what the strength of his team was and adapted [insert four billion thinking face emojis].

Slippery Rock

Category Year 1 - 2012 (6-5) Year 2 - 2013 (11-3)
Category Year 1 - 2012 (6-5) Year 2 - 2013 (11-3)
Scoring Offense 34th (34.82 pts/game) 8th (43.3)
Total Offense 52nd (407.27 yds/game) 4th (536.5)
Rushing Offense 44th (187.64) 477 atts. 59.7% of plays 55th (182.3) 538 atts. 52.7% of plays
Passing Offense 77th (219.64) 322 atts. 40.3% of plays 6th (354.3) 482 atts. 47.3% of plays
Passing Efficiency 46th (135.60) 23rd (149.15)
3rd Down Percentage 38th (42.23%) 57th (41.2%)
Red Zone Scoring 7th (90%) 25 rush TDs 13 pass TDs 76th (78.5%) 26 rush TDs 19 pass TDs
*out of 168 teams

Oh, you know, just casually out here increasing your points per game by nine and your yardage per game by ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE YARDS. It is of note that the red zone scoring percentage dropped quite a bit, but the 2013 offense did score seven more touchdowns. I’m gonna blindly, and not at all responsibly, chalk that up to an Alabama kicker-like situation.

Sam Houston State

Category Year 1 - 2014 (11-5) Year 2 - 2015 (11-4) Year 3 - 2016 (12-1)
Category Year 1 - 2014 (11-5) Year 2 - 2015 (11-4) Year 3 - 2016 (12-1)
Scoring Offense 22nd (33.9 pts/game) 5th (41.1) 1st (49.5)
Total Offense 23rd (447.1 yds/game) 1st (531.7) 1st (547.3)
Rushing Offense 9th (241.6) 730 atts. 60.2% of plays 9th (254.5) 727 atts. 57% of plays 37th (179) 447 atts. 45% of plays
Passing Offense 70th (205.4) 482 atts. 39.8% of plays 16th (271.2) 548 atts. 43% of plays 2nd (368.3) 546 atts. 55% of plays
Passing Efficiency 67th (124.21) 28th (137.44) 4th (165.68)
3rd Down Percentage 40th (41.6%) 14th (45.7%) 11th (46.5%)
Red Zone Scoring 8th (90%) 27 rush TDs 12 pass TDs 38th (82.2%) 37 rush TDs 12 pass TDs 39th (84.5%) 28 rush TDs 29 pass TDs
*out of 125 teams

Granted, we are violating the premise of this post by introducing Year 3, but it’s included because you can see the sharpening of an already lethal offense. Again, the most interesting thing to me is that in Year 1 and Year 2 at Sam Houston, Longo relied heavily on the run, yet also improved the passing game.

In Year 3, when his quarterback was the strength of the offense, he shifted more to the passing game. I know this will upset the WE RUN A DAGGUM STREETBALL OFFENSE I SAW THE DANG JAMES MADISON GAME crowd, but 2016 also marks the first time in Longo’s career that he threw it more than he ran it.

The second time it happened was last season, when Ole Miss’ top five receivers averaged over 10 yards per reception, with three of those averaging more than 16 yards per catch. So yes, Longo centering his offense around three wide receivers who will play in the NFL is the thing you should complain about most and not that Ole Miss won’t keep any conference opponent under 28 points.

Anyhow, based on returning players and Longo’s past (and assuming the offense stays healthy), we can expect an offense that was very good last year to become one that might get a defensive coordinator or two fired on Sunday morning. Let us hope the Year 1 to Year 2 jump continues because we will need the exponential offensive increases to offset a defense that will offer no margin for error on offense.