I know this is last minute, but I wanted to get one more piece on the offense up before the spring game. This one will cover some plays that are the building blocks of the Air Raid, much like the Four Verts.
First off, I want to give a h/t to my resources here. Much smarter men than me have written about this topic and go much more in detail. If you want more material, please check out Chris Brown of Smart Football here and here, Brian Anderson of Coug Center (SBN) here (he also did a pretty great rundown on the other aspects of the Air Raid when Wash St hired Leach), and finally, don't kill me, but Will McKay of Red Raider Sports (free) here.
We're going to go over a few different plays, such as stick, mesh and snag. Generally, these are simply referring to certain routes in the play itself, but said route is generally the key read.
Now I entitled this piece Triangle Pressure and not a specific play for a reason, and here's why. Triangle pressure refers to the pressure the offensive play and routes are exerting on the defensive coverage. Triangle pressure is actually a combo pressure of vertical and horizontal pressures.
A play like four verticals is a vertical pressure. It forces the defense to cover routes that extend deep into the secondary and beyond. A play like all curls (like four verts, but where every receiver breaks his route off to a curl) is a horizontal pressure, forcing the defense to cover from sideline to sideline while not being particularly deep. Each pressure has it's advantages and disadvantages and is dependent on the coverage. Insert; triangle pressure.
Triangle pressure is obviously a combination of the two, forcing the defense to cover both vertically and horizontally because of certain route combinations. Let me show you how.
Pictured above is a form of triangle pressure (marked in green) from a play with a snag route (as mentioned above). The formation here doesn't matter so much as the route combination does. The furthest inside receiver (H) is running a shallow out route to the sideline. The middle receiver (Y) is running a deep corner. The furthest outside receiver (Z) is running a snag route, which is like a slant/curl combo.
At first glance, you would think, hey, 3 receivers, 3 defenders, I don't see the weakness. But follow me for a second. Because the routes cross each other, it forces defenders to make decisions on the fly, mainly man vs zone. That nickelback has no shot covering the receiver he's lined up over. He doesn't have the position to cover the out, and even then, there are two other receivers he'd have to work around to get there.
The corner there is showing a zone look. He's looking inside to the QB/ball carrier and not the receiver. Since he's in zone, he's going to carry the receiver through his zone until safety help over the top takes over, or take him all the way, staying in a man look.
See, football is about physics and geometry and being able to take advantage of those rules based on the defense. If that corner is playing a cover 2 look, he's going to be responsible for the outside flat, taking away the out route. Fine, the corner route is going to run right by him and the ball is going to be there before the safety can come over and help. If he's in a cover 3 or 4 look, he's going to drop back with the corner route, leaving the out route in alone in space (and you know about leaving wide open receivers in space...you just don't want to do it).
And finally, if the corner is dropping back in cover 3 or 4, that nickelback is most likely responsible for the flat. In comes the snag route over the middle.
This is a stick route/play:
The Y receiver is running the stick route. This play is completely one sided. The QB will almost NEVER look to the left side of the field on this play (opposite the stick route). First read here is the Z receiver. He is supposed to get an outside release and run a go. If the corner is playing man, cover 1, 3 or 4, he's going to go with Z. If that is the case, the throw goes to Y on his break to the outside shoulder, allowing him to immediately push upfield. Think of Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Eric Morris and Jace Amaro catching those quick passes and turning upfield. In this play, F should only get the ball if Y and Z are covered in man, although on a good break, Y should still be considered if the ball is placed to the outside. The stick route is almost impossible to defend and is considered almost an automatic 6 yard completion, unless the corner is sitting in cover 2, then just throw a back shoulder to Z.
One more play to show triangle pressure: mesh
Just one thing about the mesh play is the "rub" of the two inside receivers that cross. They are creating space by running close to each other to get the defenders to collide or to have the umpire (middle referee) to interfere with someone.
Here's the beauty of triangle pressures: the beat BOTH man and zone coverages. You're not looking for a mis-match in man coverage. You're not looking for the defense to be set up in the right way (which can be a tricky read with pre- and post-snap shifts anyways). You're looking at how the defenders cover 1 receiver. Every decision on where to throw the ball is based off of that.
In that sense, you can see how this would be a staple to this offense. It's a quick, easy read to make with a high percentage completion if done properly. It's easy for new QBs to run these because of its simplicity. You can go back and probably pick out this play A LOT from last year, especially early on, with Mayfield and Webb.
With that, I hope this helps you know more about the offense Tech is running and why the pass defense might look like it's getting shredded this weekend at the Spring Game. I will be there and I hope to meet some of you there.