Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2019 season and beyond.
No. 19: Bryan Brown, Louisville
Who: Phil Longo, North Carolina
Title: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Previous stop: Ole Miss offensive coordinator (2017-18)
Why he’s important: Say this about Mack Brown 2.0 — he doesn’t lack for ambition.
“I want to be Oklahoma,” he told Sports Illustrated in April. “That’s the offense I want to run. I want to run the ball, be physical and be able to throw it deep.”
Oklahoma finished the 2018 season ranked No. 1 nationally in total offense (570.3 yards per game), scoring (48.4 points per game), yards per play (8.60), yards per attempt (11.3) and yards per carry (6.57). So… yeah. Who wouldn’t want to be Oklahoma?
Longo’s task: turn the nation’s No. 52 offense into a successful mimic of… arguably most explosive and efficient in college football history.
Though he never worked for the man, Longo is a student of Mike Leach’s Air Raid School of Offensive Philosophy. He describes himself as more of a Kliff Kingsbury and Lincoln Riley protege than a disciple of Leach himself.
Brown and Longo have never worked together, and it was in fact Kingsbury’s recommendation that led to Longo’s hiring in the first place. (Longo was calling plays at Division II Slippery Rock when Brown last coached.)
What that Kingsbury connection means in practicality is, like Oklahoma, North Carolina will be an Air Raid team that goes where the numbers are and gladly takes what the defense concedes. If opponents want to drop eight into coverage on each play, Longo will gladly run the ball snap after snap after snap.
As for personnel, the Tar Heels will be young up front and even younger under center. Three quarterbacks are up for the starting job — redshirt freshman Cade Fortin, redshirt freshman Jace Ruder and true freshman Sam Howell, a Florida State commit until Brown snagged him away in December. In fact, all five quarterbacks on UNC’s roster are true or redshirt freshmen.
But no matter who wins the job, the fate of the offense will not be in their hands, at least not totally. North Carolina returns its top two running backs, and Brown is serious about running the ball.
“What I want is a team that can throw the ball as well as anyone in the country,” Brown said at ACC media days this week. “The air raid offenses have been doing that. I watched it for 16 years at Texas with Mike Leach and with Kliff Kingsbury.
“The thing that was missing with them, in my estimation, was the power running game. What happened with Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, what happened with Phil Longo at Ole Miss is they’re taking the air raid concepts, spreading people out, but they’re running the football. They have two backs in a lot of cases or a tight end. It’s still the old power running game. I love the combination of both.”
Now, all Longo has to do is make what his boss sees happening in his head and in the crimson-and-cream film he watches and turn it into Carolina blue reality. No big deal.