When Long was offensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 2017-19, the pace helped the Fighting Irish finish 12th, 28th and 25th in FBS in Football Outsider’s efficiency index.
In addition to practicing at that pace to develop conditioning, Long is teaching the habits that Benson already has absorbed. Another is, after a play is blown dead, the ballcarrier needs to take the ball to an official rather than leave it on the ground, as handing it to the official speeds the process of getting the ball set for the next play.
“He’s definitely a high-paced offense kind of guy,” Leonard said. “He likes things to happen quickly. We’ve been adjusting our game to that, trying to get to our spots as quickly as possible – get our head around so (quarterback) Jeff (Sims) can see us.”
Speed was one facet of the offense that Long and the tight ends addressed in their media availability Thursday. Long mentioned another, his emphasis on the run game.
“If we can’t run, we’re going to be hurting,” Long said. “But that’s the mentality we like to have. With our ability to play a little bit of tempo, and with our (run-pass option), it kind of balances out pretty good. But you always want to try to be 60/40 run/pass.”
The ratio is not a requirement, but a guideline. Often, as Long noted, how a defense aligns or what aspect of the offense is effective can alter the balance.
“But obviously, you want to be a run-first team,” he said. “I just believe that helps you win in the fourth quarter and helps you close out games.”
In three seasons at Notre Dame, the run ratio was 61% in 2017, 56% in 2018 and 53% in 2019. The decline reflects, at least to some degree, Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book taking control of the offense and Long’s reliance on him as an efficient passer.
While run-pass ratio is an indicator of an offense’s identity, it hardly dictates its success. In Tech’s three seasons with Patenaude, the Jackets’ run rate was similar – 62% in 2019, 59% in 2020 and 56% in 2021.
Given that Tech’s strength figures to be in its running back group, it hardly would be a surprise for Long to present a run-heavy scheme to Clemson when the Jackets open their season Sept. 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN). Even after the transfer of All-American back Jahmyr Gibbs to Alabama, returnee Dontae Smith and transfers Hassan Hall (Louisville) and Dylan McDuffie (Buffalo) form a trio with experience and a history of production.
Long has expressed his prioritization on the run in another way. Often in practice, the offense splits up for a period in which the quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends compete against the secondary in one-on-one or two-on-two passing drills. At the same time, the running backs and offensive line drill against the defensive line and linebackers on run plays. Long said he doesn’t ever watch the passing drill.
“I go down and be with the big fellas for the inside run,” he said. “I think it’s important that their coordinator’s down there so they know the importance of that physicality and how much we believe in running the ball.”