For seven years in the early 2000s, Kansas University offensive coordinator Chuck Long had the luxury of going behind the curtain at one of the most successful college football programs of the BCS era.
Saturday, when KU plays host to No. 3 Oklahoma at 8:15 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, Long will get the chance to see what all those teams he beat up on as an offensive assistant at OU must have experienced during that stretch.
“It’s an interesting week for me,” Long said. “Because I know what that staff is all about. I know the inner workings of that staff, and they’ve got it dialed in. I know how hard they work. I had some great, wonderful years with them — some of the best years of my coaching career.”
Although he has coached at two schools since working with the Sooners, Long, a native of Norman, Okla., always kept OU, and head coach Bob Stoops, on his mind.
“I had a lot of pride in what we did at Oklahoma,” he said. “Because we all worked together on those game plans, and we worked together well.”
At OU, first as quarterbacks coach (1999-2001) and then as offensive coordinator (02-05), Long coached one Heisman Trophy winner (Jason White, 2003), two Heisman finalists (Josh Heupel, 2000, and Adrian Peterson, 2004) and helped the Sooners win a national championship in 2000. He said the key to OU’s rapid and sustained success was tied directly to the top-notch coaching staff.
“They’ve got a great program, there’s no question about it,” Long said. “They’ve recruited well. But they’ve also developed well. People think they get all these five-star guys. But when we first built that program, we were getting the three-star kids. We just developed them. You develop the program to the point where you get more of the four- and five-star kids, but they’ve had as many three-star guys go on and do well at that level and the next level as five-star guys. It’s ingrained now, and now it’s just at the point where it gets handed down.”
While Long has nothing but great things to say about his time in Norman, those he left behind uttered equally impressive sentiments about their former colleague, in Guerin Emig’s blog in the Tulsa World, earlier this week.
“The first thing that comes to mind is he’s one of the best people you’ll meet,” said former OU quarterback Heupel, now an assistant on Stoops’ staff. “Close family. Great energy. He never had a bad day in his life. Very positive. He walks into the meeting room just like he walks out the front door every day, with the same attitude, the same gleam in his eye and the same excitement about the day. I think that translates into the meeting room and the guys he comes in contact with.”
Added OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables: “Great knowledge of the game. Terrific competitor. He’s got a great demeanor about him, how he handles young people. Just a really good teacher of the game. He broke a bunch of scoreboards and records when he was our coordinator. That was no surprise.”
Long said Stoops taught him a variety of skills during his seven years at OU. He incorporated many of them into his own coaching philosophy.
“The most important thing he does, and there are a lot of them, is the way he approaches practice,” said Long of Stoops. “He approaches practice and games with the same intensity. He wants you to bring it every day.”
Despite his clear appreciation for the OU program, Long said he loved being at Kansas and was looking forward to the challenge of facing his former team Saturday night.
“I was on a great offensive staff at OU,” Long said. “But I tell you what, the staff that I’m on, offensively, is just as good. I love working with these guys every day. They’re very experienced, they’re professional and we work together. You like history to repeat itself in terms of the win column, and that’s not happening at this point. But history has repeated itself for me as far as being on a similar staff and that’s been really great.”