Chris Brown of Smart Football has a bit of a fixation with the Air Raid Offense, but that's okay because it means we get sweet-ass conceptual previews of the different flavors of Air Raid in store for football fans when Texas Tech travels to Houston this Saturday. Block-Quotin' This:
Schematically, there aren’t many differences, but there are some. Both teams use the major “Airraid” pass concepts like shallow cross, Y-stick, Y-cross, all-curl, and the like. But Leach’s offense is predicated on the horizontal passing game — not only those quick, short lateral throws, but his receivers frequently begin their routes not upfield, but laterally to the flat or across the formation. For example, Leach’s favorite play is probably “mesh.”
In this play, Leach gets a few things. He gets a zone-stretch on the frontside with the corner route, the crosser coming from the backside, and the runningback in the flat — a triangle read. The corner route can also flatten out if the cornerback plays soft coverage. And against man-to-man the crossers will rub (pick?) the defenders. Note too that these crossing receivers have a lot of freedom to settle against zone. (The coaching point is they watch the man covering the opposing crossing receiver: if a defender follows the other guy they know it is man to man, if the defender sinks back it is zone. Crafty.) It is a very good utility play, and Leach runs the hell out of it. Against Texas, Texas Tech scored one of their touchdowns by calling this same play every single play of the series. I’m dead serious.
But Holgorsen isn’t a huge fan of that play because of these “horizontal” routes. The reason is that they give away much of the game ot the defense right away; within a second of the ball being snapped, the defense knows who is going to the flat and who is running a shallow cross. Indeed, the very well coached teams can actually pattern read — not only do they know guys are running short, they know it is the “mesh” play. Now Leach can still cross them up by using “tags” or individual route adjustments on the play (like sending the guy on the corner route to the post and having the runningback run a “wheel” or flat-and-up to the sideline) or simply because the receivers have freedom, but Holgorsen prefers not to go there. Instead, though he uses the horizontal passes, the focus is on “vertical stems,” meaning plays where the receivers burst straight up the field to begin with. This has the advantage of destroying pattern reading: if receivers run up the field on every play, the defense doesn’t know if they are breaking in, our, or going deep — they all look the same.
If nothing else, you can read this on Saturday morning while Andre Ware narrates another boring Big Ten showcase of neanderball.