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Back Seat Coachin’: The Chip Long Offense

Welcome to the 404, Chip Long. The former Memphis, Notre Dame and Tulane play caller is now the OC of the Jackets.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fired Dave Patenaude as offensive coordinator, and have replaced him with Tulane OC Chip Long. Long is a veteran coach around the Power 5 world with stops in Louisville, Arkansas, Illinois, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and now GT.

Long’s most recent stop was under Willie Fritz at Tulane. Coach Long will come to Atlanta without the services of Tech’s best offensive weapon, Jahmyr Gibbs, who has entered the transfer portal.

A new OC or not, Geoff Collins program still has to fix the issues on the offensive line and with Jeff Sims ‘hot or cold’ quarterback play, and now without his security blanket in Gibbs to fall back on.


On the dash

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Long was the OC at Memphis for one season, back in 2016. The Tigers offense was ranked 43rd per the SP+ in the ‘16 season. Prior to Long’s arrival at Memphis, the Tigers offense was ranked 35th in SP+. After Long’s departure, the Tigers offense was ranked 17th per the SP+ in 2017.

At Notre Dame, Long served as the OC from 2017-2019. The ND offense was ranked 18th in 2016 prior to Long’s arrival. Under Long’s direction, the Irish were ranked 19th, 33rd, and 20th.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In ‘20, after Long’s departure, the Irish offense was ranked 19th again. Meanwhile in ‘20, before Long’s arrival, the Tulane offense was ranked 39th. In Long’s one season guided the Green Wave offense they dipped to 75th.

Brian Kelly chose not to bring Long back after the Irish scored 36.8 points per game in 2019. That number was good for 13th in the FBS, and was up from 31.4 PPG the year prior (42nd in FBS). In ‘17, the Irish scored 34.2 PPG, good for 24th in FBS.


The stat sheet

While in South Bend, Long has quarterbacks Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book. Both struggled in ‘17 averaging 6.8 and 6.1 yards per pass attempt. They combined to throw 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In ‘18, Book was the primary starter averaging 8.4 yards per pass and throwing 19 TD’s with seven INT’s. By ‘19, it was solely Book’s job to lose. Book was a Heisman Trophy candidate throwing 34 TD’s with only six INT’s while averaging 7.6 yards per attempt.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

The running game was strong in ‘17 and ‘18 but took a dip in ‘19. In 2017, the combination of Wimbush and RB Josh Adams rushed for over 2,000 yards and 23 TD’S. The next season Dexter Williams and Book saw a drastic decrease with 16 TD’s and just over 1,100 combined yards. By 2019, the duo of Tony Jones and Book rushed for 1,400 yards and 10 TD’s.

Under Long, ND didn’t have a star wide receiver until the 2019 season. Chase Claypool’s senior season in South Bend saw him catch 66 balls for 1,037 yards and 13 TD’s. The tight end position, a staple of the ND offense under new OC Tom Rees, was fairly quiet under Long. Not until 2019 did an Irish TE enter the top-3 in receiving yards when Cole Kmet hauled in 515 yards and six scores that season.


Scheme

By year three you would hope an OC’s scheme would be fully intact at any level, but especially at the high level of which ND plays. The game that probably stands out most to Tech fans would be the Irish 23-17 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in 2019.

Against UGA, the Irish finished 4-of-13 on 3rd downs, and 1-of-3 on 4th downs. Ian Book threw two interceptions and the Irish committed 12 penalties for 85 yards. As UGA is apt to doing, the Irish run game averaged only 3.3 yards per carry.

Book finished with 5.9 yards per pass attempt and two TD’s with his two INT’s. His top two receivers on the day were Claypool and Kmet. Claypool caught six balls for 66 yards and a score, while Kmet caught nine passes for 108 yards and a score of his own.

5 man protection vs. UGA on 3rd and long

The Dawgs defense had zero sacks or QB hurries, and only three tackles for loss. Collins and the Jackets would salivate for those numbers down in Atlanta.

Above- Want to slow down an aggressive pass rush on 3rd and long? ND runs the Texas route like it’s a screen. The WR’s are out in space blocking for the RB almost right away.

Above- That warm familiar feeling of a bad snap on a make-or-break 4th down play. I once heard Tim Kight say something like: people would rather do what’s comfortable and lose than do what’s uncomfortable and win. At this point the GT offense is comfortable in blown opportunities on ‘money down’ situations.

Above- I think this was supposed to be a QB sneak version of a Tebow jump pass and the UGA defender was ready for it. So Book improvises and Kmet catches the TD. NFL caliber QB and TE duos can do these things. I hope GT’s recruiting picks up in a hurry.

Above- The combination of the deep out to #1 (outside WR) and the post to #2 (inside receiver/TE) creates a nice space. The play-action helps drag up the linebacker who might be in the passing window underneath and Book hits Kmet on a big throw.

Above- 1on1 with a pressed corner on your outside WR = a throw the fade look. If you think your WR is of equal or greater talent than that CB, throw the fade. Book gets time, times up his footwork well, and drops a beautiful fade in.

Above- the ol’ flea flicker play. UGA is aggressive so that could work. I rarely like slow developing plays against fast defensive lines / edge rushers.

Above- The pressure gets to Book immediately, he scrambles, and throws a costly pick. You can see the safety in the middle screaming over to the boot side. There’s an obvious hold plus the rusher in Book’s face.

Above- When in doubt always go to your stud, and your mismatches. UGA cornerbacks can stick with your top WR’s, but can their linebackers and safeties stick with Kmet? Apparently not. Keep going to your mismatches and make them work for you. Also- using the RB in protection gives Book time to hit his 2nd receiver in the progression.

Above- The back shoulder fade is timed up perfectly. Book right off his drop and he steps up into the throw. The WR turns at just the right time and keeps a foot in bounds. This is well coached and well executed football.

Above- Again, if you have a big-body rebounder type why not go to him 1on1 in the red zone? ND does just that and it works for a TD to pull the score to 17-23 UGA.


Dashboard light

Chip Long has the upside from his time at Notre Dame to bring guidance and leadership to the Irish offense and QB room. If Jeff Sims can improve from ‘21 to ‘22 like Ian Book did from 2018 to ‘19, GT could finally get back in a bowl game. The pause for cause would be Long will not have the offensive line in Atlanta that he had in South Bend. Nor will he have Gibbs in the backfield.

In fact, I’m not entirely sure who Long will have at Georgia Tech on the offense. The Transfer Portal seems to be a popular location for Yellow Jacket offensive players in December. The offensive line will be the key for Coach Long. If Brent Key finally puts a solid group together, and Coach Caralla can keep the team healthy- fans could see improvement in ‘22.