Willie Fritz didn’t take a long time to replace Will Hall after he took the head coaching job at Southern Miss, hiring Hall’s college roommate and former Memphis and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long. Long served as an offensive analyst at the University of Tennessee this year after a three year stint in South Bend. While Long was the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame from 2017-2019, the Fighting Irish were 32-6 and Long was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Long was pivotal in the development of star quarterback Ian Book at Notre Dame. Long was the one that advocated to coach Brian Kelly for Book to take over at starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish over Brandon Wimbush. While that seems like it should have been an easy decision in retrospect since Book is now a Heisman Trophy candidate, at the time the decision was unpopular in some Notre Dame circles.
While at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish ranked 14th in scoring in the nation, putting up 36.8 points per game in 2019. In 2017, the Irish had the seventh best rushing attack in the nation, rushing for 269.3 yards per game. The Fighting Irish finished the season as a top 20 nationally ranked team in each of Chip Long’s three years in South Bend.
Prior to his time at Notre Dame, Long was the offensive coordinator at Memphis in 2016, where he played an important role in the development of quarterback Brady White. While at Memphis, the Tigers had the 14th best passing offense in the nation, throwing for 304.4 yards per game and put up 38.8 points per game, which was 16th best in the country.
It is easy to see why Chip Long was the first call that Willie Fritz made when he found out that Will Hall was heading to Southern Miss:
- Long’s history of developing quarterbacks. He played an unbelievably critical role in the development of two quarterbacks, Brady White and Ian Book, into NFL caliber players in the span of four years. Tulane has one of the top freshman quarterbacks in the country in Michael Pratt, so I could imagine it was important for Coach Fritz to bring in someone who has demonstrated success in developing players at that position.
- Chip Long was Will Hall’s college roommate and is still his best friend. Not only do Will Hall and Chip Long go on vacation together with their families every year in the Gulf, they have almost identical offensive philosophies. This is important for guys like Michael Pratt and Deuce Watts, who became very comfortable and adept at running Will Hall’s offense. It will be helpful when Coach Long gets in the film room with those guys to teach them his playbook that it will seem familiar to them.
- For Tulane to get a coach of Chip Long’s caliber to lead their offense three or even two years ago would have seemed like a pipe dream. If Ian Book goes on to lead Notre Dame to a national championship this year, Irish fans will have Chip Long to thank. No coach at Notre Dame played a bigger role in making Book into the nationally acclaimed future NFL player that he is today than Chip Long. This is a coach that was rumored to be a top-candidate for the offensive coordinator jobs at Texas and Oregon before deciding he wanted to take a year-off from being on the sidelines and go to the University of Tennessee as an offensive analyst. One could easily argue that Notre Dame is having success this year not because of Chip Long leaving, but despite it.
While Chip Long will serve as offensive coordinator for Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Nevada next week, Green Wave fans will have a lot more to look forward to from Long and Co. in 2021. The Green Wave will be bringing back one of the best quarterbacks in the conference in Michael Pratt. Running back Tyjae Spears, who was on track to be a first-team all AAC player before he was sidelined with an ACL injury, will be back in the fold for the Greenies come 2021.
With Chip Long leading the offense and Tulane bringing back a plethora of experienced and talented players on that side of the ball, there is no reason why Tulane cannot be a Top-15 team in the country next season.