Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said Friday that he’s extremely excited about each of the Rebels’ new coordinator hires.
The Rebels officially announced the hires of offensive coordinator Phil Longo and defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff on Friday. Ole Miss is undergoing a major staff shakeup after finishing 5-7 in 2016 and missing a bowl for the first time since 2011.
So what led Freeze to these two coaches? He commented Friday on what he liked about each one and what they will bring to the staff.
Why offensive coordinator Phil Longo?
Longo comes to Ole Miss from Sam Houston State, where he was the offensive coordinator for an offense that led the FCS in total yards (547.3 per game) and was second in scoring (49.5 points per game).
The former Bearkats assistant runs an Air Raid scheme that’s very similar to Ole Miss’ current offense. But Freeze said he likes the structure and terminology Longo uses. He said Longo will simplify things for an offense that had tried to do too many different things in recent years.
“Phil’s bringing in his terminology, but we’re so similar,” Freeze said. “But (I) love the way his terminology, I think it kind it of puts us more in a great structure. We had gotten a little too spread out with too many ideas, maybe.”
Freeze’s other praise for Longo was that the new offensive coordinator is willing to learn and try new strategies. And he’ll go out of his way to find those new ideas.
“The great thing about Phil,” Freeze said, “I mean, he’s the ultimate learner. … (Texas Tech head coach Kliff) Kingsbury told me stories about him just driving, sleeping in his car just to talk ball, to get new things.”
Longo will call the plays for the offense, Freeze said. The Rebels previously had co-offensive coordinators Dan Werner and Matt Luke sharing play-calling duties.
Why defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff?
McGriff comes to Oxford from Auburn, where he had been serving as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He previously served on Freeze’s staff in 2012 as co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach. Freeze said that previous experience and his comfort level with McGriff is “very important.”
Freeze also said McGriff “blew us away” in his interview with his energy. And scheme-wise, Freeze said he liked McGriff’s simple plan for the defense, which would let the Rebels use their talent and athleticism more.
“I like it that it’s simple,” Freeze said. “Let our kids play, and not think. Don’t give up the deep ball. Don’t give up explosive plays, and stop the run. Playing physical and fast.”
The main things Freeze wanted to address on defense were run defense, red zone defense and defending against explosive plays. McGriff helped the Auburn defense do well in all those areas, and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele “highly recommended him,” Freeze said.
Freeze also said McGriff is one the best recruiters he has ever faced, another factor that played into the hire.