Ole Miss’ offense pushing the pace under Phil Longo

Published 9:52 pm Thursday, March 2, 2017

 It’s only been two practices, but if the speed at which Ole Miss’ offense is operating this spring is any indication of how it will be come the fall, getting lined up will be a breeze for the Rebels’ defense.

“I can certainly tell you this, the game will be slower,” first-year defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said.

That’s because Ole Miss’ new offensive coordinator, Phil Longo, isn’t wasting any time picking up the tempo. Longo’s Air Raid offense has been running at a breakneck pace with coaches constantly urging players to get lined up as fast as possible in between snaps, which hasn’t made for the smoothest operation early on with players simultaneously learning new plays and a different set of terminology.

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“Right now, it’s a little chicken with your head cut off whereas that’s going to start to fade and there will be more poise in our tempo,” Longo said. “Right now, we’re running around trying to please coaches, get things done and think fast.”

The information is coming fast, too.

Longo said the offense, a blend of those Air Raid pass concepts and a downhill running game, consists of about 25 plays that will all be put in within the first four practices. There’s still a ways to go, but the Rebels are about where Longo expected them to be at this point of the installation phase.

“It’s pretty much been this process everywhere,” he said. “We’re kind of right where we have been on Day 2 at just about every other place. I feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”

Head coach Hugh Freeze has made no secret that the Rebels’ offense is at its best when it goes fast, but Longo’s offenses at Sam Houston State took it to another level. The Bearkats averaged 1,160 plays the last three seasons while Ole Miss never ran more than 952 during that span.

The idea is that the massive digestion of the playbook now will allow players to mix speed with consistency later.

“I told them Day 2 was going to be tough,” Longo said. “Day 3 is going to get even more difficult because we’re going to force feed this install. Day 4, we’re through the tunnel and we get out to the light. Now we get to back up, rehash, rerep, and things will consistently get better from Practice 5 on.

“Everything is Greek to them right now.”

McGriff said he embraces the challenge the tempo is giving his defense along the way.

“It gives us a chance to push our guys to the edge,” McGriff said. “They go at a tremendous speed, which forces us now not only to play fast but to play with fundamentals and technique as we get a little winded. … It’s really beneficial to practice against that type of speed day in and day out.”