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Analytics: How Phil Longo Can Improve in the Red Zone for Wisconsin Football

Analytics and Insight into what Phil Longo will bring to the Wisconsin Football RedZone Offense, and where that stacks up vs. the Best in CFB.



Wisconsin Football Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo
Apr 11, 2023; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Phil Longo is shown during practice Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back, and I’m so excited to bring you the TOP 10 Wisconsin Football Stats you need to know for the 2023 Season!

Well, it will be more like the Top 10 Analytics Themes you need to concern yourself with for the 2023 Season. Mostly because just giving you ONE STAT just isn’t enough. I want to flex those statistical muscles a bit more for you.

Theme #10: Phil Longo’s Red Zone Offense

Phil Longo‘s North Carolina Red Zone Efficiency Rank in 2022 was 106 in the FBS. This is about 24 slots behind the 2022 Wisconsin Football Offense. So there are legitimate concerns around Longo’s Scheme translating to Red Zone Scoring heading into the 2023 Season.

How will Wisconsin Football perform in the Red Zone with Longo:

First, we need to analyze where Longo diverged from the Top 3 Red Zone (RZ) Offenses (Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee) in 2022. I’ll start by looking specifically at Play Types, particularly the % of plays that used Motion/Play-Action/Run-Pass Options (RPO)s and what % of plays in the Red Zone DIDN’T.

  1. Top 3 Offenses used 2X MORE Motion (Pre-Snap)
  2. Top 3 Offenses also used ~25% Less Play-Action/RPO

This is very interesting to me; it seems, at least to this X’s & O’s novice. The Top Offenses in the RZ are trying to disrupt the Defense and get them out of position Pre-Snap with Motion. Whereas Longo’s scheme looks to be trying to disrupt the Defense with Post-Snap deception. With a healthy dose of Play-Action/RPO.

This might be where the problem lies for Longo. There just isn’t enough TIME or SPACE for longer developing plays (RPOs/Play-Action Passes) to bear fruit in the Red Zone.

If you could take one thing away from this post, just look at the YPA on Passes for Longo using Motion (Pink Column) with 6 or less in the box. On those 5 Plays, the average gain was 9 Yards/ATT. That needs to be exploited much more going forward for Longo in the Red Zone. Longo also sees outsized returns when using motion on run plays when there are 7 or more defenders in the box.

Let’s Dive Deeper into Longo’s Red Zone Play-Calls:

One thing I’ve been seeing around Twitter is analysis around efficiency with Play-Type based on how many defenders are in the box. So it begs the question, do Phil Longo‘s Play-Calls make sense based on these factors?

It looks like Longo is able to spread the field very well. About ~60% of Plays had 6 or fewer defenders in the Box. What concerns me here is the rate at which he’s doing two things.

  1. Passing with 6 or less defenders in the box
  2. Running with 7 or more defenders in the box.

I’d love to see a lot more running with 6 or less in the box. As well as more passing with 7 or more in the box!

Let’s go a level deeper…

A few things here are interesting to me.

  1. Run’s with 7 or more in the box, a majority are straight runs.
  2. Passes with 6 or less in the box a majority were Straight Dropbacks to pass.
  3. Run’s vs. 6 or less in the box, high amount of RPO gives, so the QB is making good reads.

These are just intuitively wrong; frankly, it’s shown based on the results. North Carolina had the 5th most trips to the Red Zone in 2022 with 70. However, they converted scores only 55 times which was 106th best (Worst) in CFB. The Strategy in between the 20s is fantastic but is a struggle once inside the Red Zone. Longo will have to tighten up in 2023 if this Wisconsin Football team wants to maintain these newfound Championship expectations.

Easy Fix for Longo & Wisconsin Football:

Honestly, to get to that ELITE Red Zone efficiency will be pretty simple fixes:

  1. Run More on “Light” Boxes (6 men or less)
  2. Pass more on “Heavy” Boxes (7 men or More)
  3. USE MORE MOTION to create disruption for the defense and identify (“Light” or “Heavy”) boxes

If Longo/Mordecai can execute on these three things, they’ll have much more success in the Red Zone than Longo’s North Carolina team did last year. And as I said, they are seemingly easy fixes, which gives me a TON of confidence they’ll be made. It would be absolute madness if we didn’t see these simple changes made.

We’re back. The season gets officially started Sep. 2nd vs. Buffalo. Where we’ll be able to see if Longo is on the path to improved Red Zone performance, and YOU will know what to be looking for.

On Wisconsin!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.