Report: Notre Dame to hire Memphis' Chip Long as offensive coordinator

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame's offensive coordinator search may be over.

The Irish are expected to hire Memphis offensive coordinator Chip Long to serve in the same position in South Bend, according to a report on Friday by Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman. Feldman also reported that Long will receive a three-year contract.

Notre Dame has extended an offer to Long, a source confirmed to the Tribune on Friday, though it's unclear whether he has accepted it. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reported that the hire will be announced early next week.

Long, 33, served as Memphis' offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for just one season. Despite returning only five offensive starters and losing standout quarterback Paxton Lynch, the Tigers' offense averaged 38.8 points per game (16th nationally) and scored at least 41 points in each of its last five games.

Memphis also averaged 6.7 yards per play against ranked opponents last season, which ranked seventh nationally.

In its 8-5 2016 season, Memphis finished 14th out of 128 FBS teams in passing (304.4 yards per game), 32nd in total offense (463.7 yards per game) and 84th in rushing (159.3 yards per game).

The Tigers were 63rd in third down conversions (40.5 percent), one spot ahead of Notre Dame. They also scored touchdowns on 63.6 percent of their red zone trips, ranking 51st out of 128 teams.

Under Long's tutelage, Memphis tight ends Daniel Montiel and Joey Magnifico combined for 36 catches, 423 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season.

After replacing Lynch, who was selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, junior quarterback Riley Ferguson promptly broke Lynch's single-season program touchdown record with 32. He also passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns in the team's Boca Raton Bowl loss to Western Kentucky, setting a school bowl record for passing yards and tying the mark for touchdown passes.

Long's recruiting reputation is also significant, as he was named one of the country's top 25 recruiters by both Rivals and 247Sports in 2015. He was also honored as one of the premier recruiters in the Pac-12 by Rivals each year from 2012 to 2014.

Prior to arriving at Memphis, Long was the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Arizona State from 2012 to 2015. He was the tight ends and fullbacks coach at Illinois in 2010 and 2011, and he began his coaching career as an offensive graduate student coaching the tight ends at Arkansas in 2008 and 2009.

At Arkansas, Long helped develop Razorback tight end D.J. Williams, who became the first player in program history to win the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end in 2010.

It's unclear which position Long will oversee at Notre Dame, but considering that he has coached tight ends for seven consecutive seasons and the Irish recently fired tight ends coach Scott Booker, that could be a potential fit.

Head coach Brian Kelly also has openings for a quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford left to become Western Kentucky's head coach on Dec. 14, while associate head coach and wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock agreed on Thursday to become the offensive coordinator under Luke Fickell at Cincinnati.

Denbrock was also the team's offensive play-caller in 2015 and 2016, so it's feasible that — given Long's inexperience — Kelly would re-assume play-calling duties next fall. Long did call the offensive plays at Memphis last season, however.

Notre Dame has announced two significant hires in the last month, bringing in defensive coordinator Mike Elko from Wake Forest as well as special teams coach Brian Polian — who served in the same role in South Bend under Charlie Weis and was most recently the head coach at Nevada.

In its underwhelming 4-8 2016 season, Notre Dame averaged 30.9 points and 417.6 yards per game.

Long, who will be tasked with boosting those numbers, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Alabama. An Alabama native, he played wide receiver and tight end for the Lions from 2002 to 2005 and earned All-America first team and All-Gulf South Conference first team honors in his senior season. In 2010, Long was named to the Gulf South Conference All-Decade Team as a tight end.

Long and his wife, Kari, have a daughter, Lyla, who was born in June.

Memphis offensive coordinator Chip Long is expected to accept the same position at Notre Dame (Photo courtesy of Nikki Boertman/The Commercial Appeal).