Ole Miss picks Longo to lead offense, McGriff on defense
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze hired new offensive and defensive coordinators in an effort to overhaul his program following a disappointing 5-7 season.
The school announced on Friday that Phil Longo will run the offense. Longo was the offensive coordinator at Sam Houston State, which had a 12-1 record this season and has made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Wesley McGriff returns to Ole Miss as defensive coordinator following four seasons away - including one at Auburn and three with the New Orleans Saints.
The Bearkats' offense averaged 547.3 yards per game this season, which was No. 1 in the nation at the FCS level. Like Freeze, Longo worked his way up to big-time college football after starting his career as a high school coach.
''We explored every name for this position, but Phil has been on my radar for a long time and it was clear that he is the man that can take our offense from good to great,'' Freeze said in a statement. ''Over the past three years, he has authored one of the most prolific and innovative offenses in all divisions of college football.''
Longo inherits an Ole Miss offense that threw for 314.9 yards per game in 2016, which was No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference. He also has a young quarterback in Shea Patterson - who started three games as a freshman this fall - to build the offense around.
Longo's biggest challenge will be improving an Ole Miss running game that's been inconsistent the past few seasons. The Rebels have also struggled in the red zone, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.
At Sam Houston State, Longo's offense scored touchdowns in 80.3 percent of its trips to red zone in 2016, which ranked No. 1 in FCS.
McGriff was on Freeze's staff in 2012 as a co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
''Wesley is the total package - an outstanding leader, creative coach and dynamic recruiter,'' Freeze said. ''The defenses have been outstanding at every place he has been, and his most recent experience at Auburn has him well prepared for this opportunity.''
McGriff will take over an Ole Miss defense that struggled in 2016. The Rebels gave up a SEC-worst 34 points per game and were particularly bad stopping the run, giving up more than 246 yards per game.
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