The Air Raid offense is a very simple offensive scheme that simply put values the pass over the run. The name ‘Air Raid‘ may make someone think this scheme (more like a philosophy) wants to throw the ball deep every play. Not quite. The Air Raid system utilizes many underneath concepts with routes that change based on the coverage, specifically the mesh route concept. The majority of the plays will come from a 10-personnel grouping, which means one back on the field, zero tight ends, and four wide receivers. Formations wise, the Air Raid may be the most simple offensive scheme in football, running mostly Ace (2×2), which is 2 receivers left and 2 receivers right, Early (3×1) which is Trips-Right, and Late (3×1) which is Trips-Left. These formations are used as the base sets, and then are ‘tagged’ to slightly change them. The thought process by using this choice of personnel and formations is to stretch the field to force the defense to cover the entire area of the football field, both horizontally (the entire 53-1/3 yards in width of the field), and vertically (from LOS to the endzone).
History of the Air Raid Offense
Before the Air Raid was ever called the Air Raid, and much before passing the ball was a popular idea in football, Brigham-Young University head coach Lavell Edwards, who coached BYU from 1972-2000, was the first to use the concepts that would later become the Air Raid, including the willingness to throw the ball more frequently and live with the results. The actual Air Raid, however, found its beginning at Iowa Wesleyan College, under head coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach. The first version of the offense was just a translation of the Lavell Edwards BYU offense with more passing, but the Air Raid’s evolution didn’t stop here. Over time, they changed which formations the offense would primarily be ran out of, they changed route concepts, and simplified it to where you wouldn’t need a 5-star quarterback to be successful. Together, Mumme and Leach eventually would take the offense to Valdosta State, but the offense didn’t get more complex, in fact they made the offense even less so by not having formations with right and left variations. This meant that the same receivers would always line up in the same place, and run their routes the same way, instead of having to know their position from both sides. After Valdosta State, they took the Air Raid to Kentucky University, which would be the last stop the two would have together. After being at Kentucky from 1997-1998, Mike Leach would split from Hal Mumme and take the offensive coordinator job at Oklahoma University for the 1999 season, and then take the Head Coach position at Texas-Tech in 2000. In his nine years at TTU, Mike Leach would help completely transform the philosophy of college football offense, especially the Big-12, making scoring 50 points on opponents, sometimes 70, a regular occurrence, and leading the nation in offensive production regularly. The Air Raid had officially arrived. The scheme (or idea) began spreading across the country with coaches that worked and played under Leach and/or Mumme such as Dana Holgorsen, Kliff Kingsbury, Kevin Sumlin, Art Briles, and many more taking the same concepts and implementing them with their own programs.
Who uses the Air Raid
Today, the Air Raid’s concepts are used at all levels of football from High-School to the National Football League. It would be easier to name the small amount of teams that don’t use the Air Raid concepts, if not the entire philosophy. The most notable usage of the Air Raid philosophy still comes directly from Mike Leach, who is now the head coach at Washington State University.
Air Raid Staple Formations
Air Raid Playcalls
Note: This post is likely to be updated from time to time to add in extra content or new information about the Air Raid since football is ever-changing.
Sources and Research: smartfootball.com – this site offered tremendous insight into the history of the Air Raid, if you want to know exactly where Mike Leach and that offense began, look no further. footballxos.com – awesome website that features actual playbooks from many different colleges and coaches, including many of the Air Raid playbooks from the 80s to the early 2000s. cougcenter.com – I initially stumbled upon this website because I couldn’t remember the name of a specific motion, and ended up reading through their content for a long time, and it’s all great insight.