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Jeffrey Wilson vs Army: Examples of Success

Earlier in the preseason, we took a look at 2015 Jeff Wilson to try and be excited at 2016 Jeff Wilson.

Boy has he delivered or what?

Wilson is sitting at 724 yards on 108 carries, and 12 rushing touchdowns. This includes a combined 50 yards against Florida and MTSU. In North Texas’ 4 wins, Wilson has averaged 8 yards per carry, 147 yards a game, and totaled 10 touchdowns. It’s critical to feed Wilson.

Now that over half the season is done, let’s take a quick look at some of his highlights against Army – the second ranked run defense in the nation. We focus on plays that exemplify his success on the ground so far this season, and what we should look for the rest of the way.

GIF It, GIF It Real Good

In this first clip, North Texas is lined up in a pistol formation. Cannon Maki (I think) is lined up as the blocking H-back. At first glance, this play seems to be a run option for Fine, which freezes the DE and a DT for a moment, allowing the left tackle to block them both. Army’s linebackers are pretty damn good, but they oversold on the right side of the offensive line. North Texas’ O-Line directs the defense to the right and easily punches through, creating a big hole for Wilson. Wilson accelerates through the hole, as the front seven are all immediately out of position.

While the offensive line has done their job, it’s time for Wilson to do his. As Wilson heads upfield, he forces the DB to over-pursue. Wilson then shows his run-bending ability and footwork – without losing momentum.

He does bobble the football when he gets tackled later, so he needs to work on that.

Jeff Wilson Run 1

 

What follows is a thing of beauty – that begins with an awkward handoff. North Texas is again in a pistol formation, and again we will assume that Maki lined up as the H-back. Wilson does a good job of following his blockers. The left tackle, Woodworth, disrupts DE’s path. The left guard, Henson seals LB#39 to the outside. Wilson fakes to the outside behind Henson, manipulating the DB to take the outside edge, and continues up field.

Maki gets a great block on LB#11, following the hole. Willie Robinson bravely comes in and seals an inside edge against DB#9 (good job, good effort Willie). At this point, the remaining defenders are out of position, and Wilson uses his elite acceleration to out run the 21 other players, the umpire, the line judge, the ball boy, etc.

Wilson Run 2

 

The next play can be described by the following words: Vision, athleticism, acceleration, fluidity, and calf cramp.

I’ll just let you enjoy it while imagining me yelling “GOT EM!” every time he cuts.

mwHPBIHftuLTO

Going Forward

Jeffrey Wilson is, and should continue to be the focal point of the offense.

While this is an Air Raid-based offense, Wilson’s talent and explosiveness should make things easier for Mason Fine and the receivers. If Wilson forces opposing defenses to key in on the run, Littrell and Harrell have pass plays designed to take advantage of these types of matchups.

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Football

2016 Schedule Series: UTSA

The University of Texas of the Permian – oh wait hold on. Rio Gra – nope not that one. It’s on this wiki list, I promise. Here it is: UT San Antonio was founded in 1969 (nice). It was not previously a Normal College, however. This bucks an interesting trend of at least two Conference USA schools.

Renowned architect, walking national historical marker, and North Texas alum O’Neil Ford was tasked to design a master plan for the campus. In San Antonio, Ford was known for designing the Tower of the Americas. In Denton, Ford is known for many buildings, including the Little Chapel in the Woods, the UNT Gazebo, the Civic Center, and City Hall. Ford’s designs mix modern European qualities with rustic Texan architecture. His master plan of UTSA was of Italian influence.

So that’s actually pretty cool.

UTSA’s first football team was signed in 2010 (I have shoes older than that), completing a four-year journey that began with a feasibility study in 2006. Under the late great head coach Larry Coker, UTSA played its first game as an FCS independent against Northeastern State in 2011. Their first season ended in a 4-6 record. The next two seasons as an FBS transitional saw UTSA compile a 15-9 record. This included big wins over North Texas (7-3) and Tulane (6-3) in 2013, their first season in Conference USA. Unfortunately, they were not eligible for bowls either year. So suck it 2013 UTSA.

Also, Wikipedia lists Texas State as UTSA’s rival FIRST. So there’s that.

After a successful FBS start, UTSA was only able to win 7 games the next two seasons. Larry Coker went on to resign after the 2015 season, paving the way for LSU Assistant HC and RB coach, Frank Wilson.

Wilson is largely considered the best coach ever by many San Antonians. San Antonio-uns? San – whatever. They love him.

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Football

Player Spotlight: Jeffrey Wilson

North Texas had an awful offense in 2015. One of the few bright spots and an MGN favorite was Jeff Wilson. He is quick, powerful, and effective. While he slowed down a bit toward the end of the year he was still North Texas’ most dangerous offensive player and received the focus of the defense late.

You have heard your friendly neighborhood MGN podcasters and bloggers discuss him at length but let’s grab a drink, sit and take a look at Jeff Wilson: RB.

What Wilson Brings

Jeffery Wilson’s running style is frequently compared to Adrian Peterson. While I don’t completely agree, I would say his gait is similar, as well as his fluid change of direction while running up field, losing little speed. Wilson does not have top end speed or AP’s balance, but he does have great acceleration and bends runs that quickly put tacklers out of position. After the handoff, Wilson is able to manipulate linebackers before even hitting a gap.

Additionally, he is able to vary his fakes and cuts, setting up defenders and taking away angles – while he doesn’t run with the same power as AP, he doesn’t necessarily have to run people over. Finally, Wilson’s vision allows him to make quick and decisive moves, as well as turn broken plays into positive gains.

Receiving

Wilson brings in an added dimension in the receiving game. Mainly used in the screen game last year, Wilson can catch the football with his hands and away from his body; at times he gained big chunks of yards last year just through his raw athleticism. In this Air Raid offense, Wilson will be asked to be a receiver in the screen game, in addition to running routes out of the backfield. In this play, Marshall totally disrespected the pass game and paid for it. Note the acceleration that makes this play deadly.

Versus Power 5 Schools

Against Iowa in week 4, North Texas was blown out 62-16. Jeffrey Wilson, however, was able to grind out 75 yards on 15 carries against one of the top run defenses in the country. For context, it was the highest rushing total by a running back against Iowa for the first 8 weeks of the season.

In the following play, Wilson shows his ability to manipulate linebackers before hitting the hole. After the handoff, Wilson baits the MLB with one step toward the right B gap. Wilson  cuts left and takes the gap created inside the LT. Wilson then baits the OLB to over pursue outside. With fluid movement, Wilson bursts up field, and breaks the OLB’s arm tackle. By this time, the MLB has come back across the field, covering the run well, and Wilson lowers his shoulder to break the initial MLB’s tackle, who eventually wraps up his foot.

Wilson vs Iowa 1

The previous run shown sets up the linebackers for the following run. Wilson bounces run around the outside of the LT. The MLB is tied up with a block. The OLB slows down to set up the tackle. Wilson fakes up field, the OLB bites inside, and Wilson is able to run around the contact.

Wilson vs Iowa 2

In week 10 against Tennessee, Wilson found very little room – or solid footing – to run.

In the following counter, North Texas is facing a 4-3 under front. Wilson takes a step towards the RT, causing the SLB to hesitate. He then follows the blocking H-back and pulling RG who sweep to the left. Wilson exhibits patience while waiting for blockers to create a hole. The LT is able to block the MLB while the pulling RG is able to put a block on the LDE. Wilson runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, and forces the WLB to take the outside leverage of the blocking H-back to contain Wilson, while the LT and RG create an edge. Wilson cuts and accelerates up field and then bends toward the sideline – quickly eating up 8 yards before the MLB gets a good angle on him.

Wilson vs Tennessee

Versus Conference USA

Marshall was one of the stingiest run defenses in the league in 2015. Jeffrey Wilson gashed them for 138 yards on 17 attempts on the ground, and one reception for 9 yards. Another 20+ yard reception was called back.

In this next play, Marshall demonstrates why its run defense was so good, but Wilson shows his ability to convert a broken play.

North Texas runs a zone stretch play to the left. Marshall is in 4-2-5, with a safety in the box. The C and LT pull, while the TE and RG pin. The right side of the o-line collapses, and the backside pursuit gains on Wilson. Finding the edge outside the pulling C, Wilson bounces outside; the safety seals the outside, and forces Wilson up field.

Part 1:
Wilson vs Marshall 1

The Mike LB has come across, filling Wilson’s gap created between the pulling C and LT. The LB comes in for the sure tackle for a one yard gain, but the LB’s hips are facing the sideline as he’s bearing down. Wilson feels the outside pressure and comes to a complete stop, cuts inside and leaves the LB grasping. Wilson showcases his acceleration up field and gains an additional 7-8 yards. Wilson turns what would have been a 1-2 yard play to about 8-9 yards.

Part 2:
Wilson vs Marshall 2

This next clip against Southern Miss shows his footwork and pad level through the hole, his fluidity, as well as his balance after broken tackles.

On this inside zone run, Wilson finds a small crease to punch through between the RG and RT. He keeps his pad level low through the hole. The hole isn’t completely clean, as he has to avoid running into the back of the C blocking at the next level. As he steps around that block, he has a linebacker bearing down on him. He cuts left, avoiding a direct hit, but the LB is able to land an arm tackle on his legs, tripping him up. Wilson is able to keep his feet underneath him, however, and regain his balance. Even so, he is able to accelerate up field again, causing the CB (#3) to misjudge his speed and land a poor tackle. Fortunately for the corner, a safety and linebacker are there to clean it up.

Wilson vs Southern Miss

Final Thoughts

North Texas will likely not run the same sorts of pulling sweeps and counters as last season, and as North Texas brings in several new faces to the offensive line – in addition to a new wide split line scheme – Wilson may need all of these skills to fight through an unproven offensive line. The new Air Raid system may bring a potential for big plays for Wilson, however. With Wilson’s vision, decision-making, and acceleration, he only needs one good block from a wide split offensive line to spring for a big gain. Additionally, several Air Raid plays could potentially pit Wilson 1-on-1 against a linebacker – a matchup in Wilson’s favor. If Littrell and Harrell utilize Wilson’s receiving ability, Wilson has a chance to build upon his 1,180 all-purpose yard performance from last year.

Hopefully, we see more of this next year:
Wilson scores on UTSA

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Football

2016 Season Preview Addendum: Late 2016 Additions

The roster situation has forced Seth Littrell and staff to make late additions to the team, here’s an update to the season preview. Learn a little bit more about guys who have made progress in fall camp and about others who are making an appearance in headlines recently.

Eric Jenkins – A great addition – and a recruiting win by this staff – Jenkins is a top 10, three star JUCO corner who could contribute quickly. Highly athletic, Jenkins has 4.4 speed and ball hawking ability. In his last season at LA Valley, he came down with 7 interceptions. He has good play recognition, and defends the screen game well. He uses his athleticism to recover quickly in man coverage, which may be a reason for all his interceptions. He was also effectively used in blitzes for LA Valley. If you thought defensive back was North Texas’ strongest unit before, then Jenkins is icing on the cake and the cherry on top.

Anthony Wyche – A relatively strong unit became even strong with the addition of Wyche. I expect Wyche to see plenty of touches this season, and could be the next man up if Wilson were to miss time. Brett Vito and other observers have noted how well Wyche has looked in practice, scoring long touchdown runs, catching touchdown passes, and running people over. He has a nose for the end zone, leading his conference in the SCFA in touchdowns. He is a good between-the-tackles runner with good vision, quick feet, is explosive through the hole, and a violent runner. His short area quickness and burst, and a penchant for the truck stick, should aid North Texas in short yardage situations.

Quentin Jackson – At 6’3”, 205 lbs, Jackson is a big receiver. He’s also got some wheels and great acceleration. After losses at the receiver position over the offseason, Jackson adds needed depth and speed on the outside. Given that he has just been cleared to join the team, it may be some weeks until he sees some game time. It wouldn’t be a surprise, however, to see him run some fades earlier on and pressure the defense deep.

Darius Turner – Turner played corner at Arizona Western. He is a large boundary corner, coming in at 6’1” 205, so he may get a look at safety. Reinforcing the DB depth is important, as the defense may be on the field a lot, if past Air Raid teams are any indication. Turner has good recovery and closing speed, and is physical along the boundary.

Spencer Edwards – There’s not a whole lot out there on this recent addition. Drafted in 2012 by the Rays, this former second round MLB prospect has purported “blazing speed” with 4.40 wheels. In 2010 he made 4A-District 10, 2nd team All-District as a receiver and returner. With his professional experience, he could provide guidance for the younger receivers. In addition to providing speed as a receiver, he could prove to be a helpful special teams player in the return game – a role that has needed a boost since Brelan Chancellor left.

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Football

Air Raid Concepts: Smash, Divide, and Conquer

As we have seen in previous editions, plays in the Air Raid system are comprised of simple concepts that are meant to strain a defense vertically and horizontally. The Smash concept is another one of those simple-yet-effective play types designed to create – or attack – open space. Originally designed against Cover 2, this play can also be run against man.

The Smash Concept

The term “simple” is overused to describe many of these concepts, but it is true. Smash is the combination of two routes: a 5-6 yard hook route by the outside receiver that draws a defensive back, and a 10-12 yard corner route by the inside receiver in the open space created over the hook. In the figure below (via: Billy Gomila), “1” is the sideline receiver, and “2” is the inside receiver, which can be mirrored to the other side.

Smash Concept

For the quarterback, their first read is the corner route and the position of the cornerback over the “1” receiver. If the CB defends the hitch, this creates an open space behind the CB for the corner route. If the corner drops back to defend the corner route, the hitch is open. The hitch route has some options as well. If the nickel back comes out to defend the flat, the receiver can then roll over the back, then inside towards a soft spot. The “2” receiver has to be able to eat up any cushion against his man forcing him inside, or sell a post route against a dee[ zone defender before breaking hard to the outside. As always, Smart Football has some additional information and resources regarding the receivers’ role and technique.

The play below is good demonstration of this concept versus zone. The offense is in Ace formation in Leach-speak. (Many of the formation nomenclature is derived from the Coug Center site or from Leach’s old OU playbook). We will focus on the far side of the field where the play happens.

Smash Left

The runningback releases for a swing pass after having no one to block. The cornerback gives the outside receiver a 5 or 6 yard cushion. The safety is lined up over inside receiver, while the nickelback is eyeing the flat. Connor Davis, the inside receiver, releases downfield and fakes an inside route, causing the NB to hesitate slightly and turn his hips upfield. The CB covering the outside receiver continues to give the cushion eyeing Davis as Davis rolls his route to the corner – while also taking away the safety – and Derris Prater (sleeper alert) is open on the hitch route underneath. Approximately two seconds elapse from snap to Shanbour’s pass.

On the near side of the field, the play is mirrored, but they are covered the whole way. I would like to point out how open the middle of the field became as the safeties are pulled to the sidelines. This can allow for a number of defensive exploits, including a draw play, a variety of routes for the runningback, or a deep seam attack.

The Divide Route

The Smash concept can be a quick passing option underneath, or a chain mover with the corner route. But how can we add an explosive home run option?

The Divide route is essentially a seam read by the inside receiver that exploits soft areas of Cover 2 and Cover 3. It strains the defense vertically and opens up the Smash routes, or creates a big play downfield. On its own, the divide route reads the position of the safeties. If the middle is open, the receiver takes the deep post, “dividing” the safeties. If there is safety help over the top, the receiver can streak along the hashes.

The play below has a Smash combined with a Divide. The offense is in what looks to be a Trips Late formation (though I called it Trips Open in the Y-stick article). On the far sideline, Rutherford runs the hitch while Buyers runs the corner route. The Y receiver, Kelvin Smith, runs the divide route. The near receiver likely runs a fade or a curl, but the camera cuts them out.

Smash Divide

The cornerback over Rutherford is giving him a 10 yard cushion, the safety eyes Buyers, and nickelback lines up with inside leverage against a larger Smith. The other safety sits 10 yards deep on the near hash, and the left cornerback presses against the near receiver. There is a mismatch between Smith and his man, who is beat almost immediately. The right cornerback is sucked in by the [wide open] hitch route, Buyers beats his safety for the [open] corner route. The nickelback receives no safety help, and Shanbour decides to go for the home run as soon as the far safety turns to follow Buyers. While the ball was a tad short, Smith uses his frame to secure the aggressive throw over the mismatched opponent for a touchdown. Approximately 3 seconds elapsed from snap to pass. While not necessarily advisable with two other open guys, if this is first down, I say do it.

Final Thoughts

The Smash concept with the added divide route can be a Cover 2 and Cover 3 killer. It encompasses the Air Raid philosophy of stretching the defense horizontally, and straining them vertically. Big guys like Kelvin Smith create mismatches against linebackers all day, while receivers like Goree and Rutherford can attack the sideline.

Additionally, we have seen this formation before. The Y-stick is also run out of this Trips formation. Not only will defenses have a difficult time keying in on a specific play, playcalling can change based on what the defense gives them out of the same formation.

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Air Raid Concepts: Y-Cross

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to another installment of our summer pastime: breaking down the new offense led by Seth Littrell. Today: The Y-Cross.

Mike Leach brought 4-wide sets to his Texas Tech games. He did not invent them, but he did incorporate four wide sets in what was previously a 2-back offense. The very excellent smartfootball.com has this to say about the evolution

The changes Leach made were not major, but they were important. While he kept the basic structure of the offense basically the same as what he and Mumme had used at Kentucky, he did make some changes, many of them necessitated by his increased use of a four-wide receiver set, rather than the two-back look they had used at Kentucky. These changes were: (1) wide linemen splits, (2) running some concepts through the left “inside receiver”, the “H” receiver, as well as through the “Y” receiver, and (3) the increased focus and adaptation of four verticals.

In this episode of Air Raid concepts, we will discuss a classic Air Raid play: The Y-Cross. The version we saw in the spring game is a 2×1 receiver, 2-back set. For reference, this 20 personnel set is also called “Color Set” in Leach-speak. Like many Air Raid plays, it strains the defense at multiple levels. It’s a play that requires both the quarterback and receivers to be on the same page as they need to read the defense properly and quickly. (GIFs were generated from the North Texas Spring game here.)

The Y-Cross

The version that North Texas runs here is from a shotgun split look, with the Y receiver flexed away from the line and on the ball. This play gives the X and Y receivers the option to react to what the defense shows them. The following play art shows an evolved form of Leach’s Y-Cross, and similar to Littrell’s at North Texas (via bruceeien.com).

Y-Cross Play Art

The X receiver is the first read, and is tasked to beat his corner on an outside release. If the corner is pressing, X has to either beat the pressing corner, or quickly eliminate the gap in soft coverage. About 10 yards upfield, X continues a fade route, or breaks into a skinny post if his corner has safety help. The QB has to identify the safety help as well, and should be ready to peek the route for an outside shoulder throw if X beats the press quickly.

The X’s route allows for quick, deep plays. But if that is not open, the Y receiver’s deep cross is another big play generator. As the second read, the Y receiver’s job is to find real estate during a deep crossing route. Against zone coverage, Y must release inside and split the strong side (Sam) and middle (Mike) linebackers by running under Sam and over Mike. After Y is over Mike, Y has the option to settle in the soft spot of the zone. He can also continue toward the corner to the next soft spot below the defensive backs, or continue toward the sideline.

But that’s not all folks. The Y receiver’s route can completely change with different defensive looks. During a blitz, the Y receiver has the option to flatten his route – essentially run a shallow cross – and look for the quick pass. Against man coverage, the Y receiver must first release inside and push vertically about 10-12 yards, to then break inside for what becomes a dig route. Whatever route the Y receiver decides to take is dictated by the defense, and he must find green space quickly.

The Z receiver’s route eases defensive pressure on both the Y and X receivers. This is the fourth read. With an inside release, Z pushes 10 yards downfield, and stems the route toward the post for 5 yards, and then finally digs. With the addition of this post dig route, this play begins to look like a weakside flood.

The backfield can include a number of combinations of split backs. In the Spring game, we see RBs, FBs, and H-backs being used. Each back’s assignment varies by the call. The strong side back, if not in pass protection, will release for a wheel route. The weak side back will look to pass protect, and can either run a swing route or a cut route between the center and guard.

In this first clip, the H-back releases for a wheel route, and the RB sees a three man rush, and releases for the swing route. The Y receiver settles under the Mike linebacker who drops back in coverage, as the Sam takes the flat and the Will linebacker stays put eyeing the swing pass. The corner gives the X receiver a 10-yard cushion, with single safety help. The nickelback drops into coverage under the X receiver. Shanbour looks off the safety, anticipates the skinny post and hits the X receiver. Darius Prater is even able to get a few yards after contact.

Y-Cross Skinny Post

This time, both backs are in pass protection as the defense has 5 guys on the line of scrimmage showing blitz. The Y receiver settles into the gaping hole left by the blitzing linebackers. The X and Y receivers both eat up 5 (!) defenders as they roll coverage to the weak side. The Z receiver is left 1-on-1 against soft coverage, and runs a hitch route. Shanbour hits him outside, and Willie Robinson shakes his defender badly after the catch for a touchdown.

Y-Cross Z Hitch

In this next clip, the defense has 5 guys on the line, with the nickelback lined up on the strong side, and a DB and Will linebacker blitz on the weak side. Both corners are playing soft coverage, with a single safety over the top. The fullback stays in pass protection, and the running back runs a cut route. The nickelback covers the X receiver, while the two remain linebackers eye the cut route in front of them. This leaves Kelvin Smith’s crossing route open behind the linebackers. I think Shanbour expected him to stop — which is a QB mistake as there was space in front of him — as the pass is a little behind, but Smith is able to snag it and scamper for a touchdown.

Y-Cross K Smith TD

In these few plays, we see the explosive downfield potential of the Y-cross. The X receiver offers a quick vertical threat, while the Y receiver offers a dynamic playmaking outlet that exploits defensive decisions. Tit for tat, in a way. While his route takes a little longer to develop, the Z receiver can take pressure off X and Y, or is sometimes left 1-on-1 deep. The backs offer extra protection on the line, or extra options in the vacated areas of the field.

Editors note: This offense is designed to stretch the defense horizontally and vertically, but depending on the coach and especially the quarterback, we might see one or the other. For example, Johnny Manziel was instructed to read deep-to-short on a play that is often run more conservatively. It is important to mention this now, before any bad games and inevitable comparisons to the Todd Dodge-era dink-and-dunk criticisms.

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Air Raid Concepts: Y-Stick

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to our summer pastime: breaking down the new offense led by Seth Littrell. Today: The Y-Stick.

For the past five seasons, Mean Green football fans have been witness to a pro-style offense. To the chagrin of many, North Texas played a conservative style that sets up the passing offense with the run game. It can be an effective play style with great running backs, a good o-line, a good quarterback, and most importantly, smart play calling. I am a fan of the bruising style because it establishes a gritty team mindset and grab the attention of pro scouts. Unfortunately for North Texas, we are not in the Big Ten, and did not have the proper personnel and play calling versus Conference USA competition (or any competition).

But the past is in the past. As the dust settled on the new coaching hires, the new scheme is clear: Air Raid. Well, Air Raid-inspired. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the offensive concepts of the Air Raid. After doing some reading and watching the Spring game, I found that underlying philosophy is simple and exciting.

We won’t go into the history and evolution of the Air Raid, from Lavell Edwards to Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. There’s plenty of that out there. Ahem What we will do is introduce a few concepts and plays central to the Air Raid over a few posts. We will then see some examples of how Littrell and Harrell executed the offense during the Spring game. (The GIFs used in these series were taken from the Spring game highlights here).

Concepts and plays in the Air Raid are meant to strain the defense horizontally and vertically. They are meant to move the chains quickly, and create opportunities for mismatches. The same play can be used to attack the pass defense underneath, down the seam, or outside the numbers. That same play can then be packaged in a run option, or a draw. We will see exactly that with the Y-stick. You might see it elsewhere as ‘stick’ or some variation. The concept is the same.

The Y-Stick

Here is a play that has many different iterations and formations. The Y-stick is a field stretcher, both downfield and across. North Texas lines it up in a 10 personnel shotgun set, with the back on either the strong side or the weak side. For those keeping track, the receivers are lined in a trips open formation, with the X receiver isolated on one side, and the Y, H, and Z receivers opposite. The Y receiver is on the line of scrimmage, while the H and Z receivers are off.

Y-Stick Diagram

The QB takes anywhere from a one to three step drop, depending on the play. The first read is on the Y receiver, who runs a stick route 5 yards downfield. The Z receiver runs a fade route with an outside release, taking a defender vertically away from the Y receiver. The H receiver runs an out route, taking another defender horizontally away from the Y receiver. This gives enough room for the Y receiver to break away from man coverage or find a soft spot in the zone. Sometimes, the halfback can release on a wheel route, or straight up the field.

In the following play, the Mean Green are lined up in a trips left formation, with the halfback on the strong side. The Y receiver is covered up by the linebacker who is sitting flat footed on the route, eyeing the run. Tee Goree is left 1-on-1 and open immediately, and Morris hits the fade for a touchdown. A great outside route runner like Goree will take advantage of 1-on-1 matchups like this.

Goree TD

On this play, the halfback is lined up on the weak side, and the Y receiver is covered in man coverage. He is able to break open outside after he sticks his route, but by then the ball is in the air for the Z fade route. The Z receiver is in a 1-on-1 matchup, and is allowed to make a play on the ball.

Fade TD

What is interesting about this concept is that it can be packaged into run plays. By the time this next play happens, the defense has seen this formation a few times. The halfback is on the strong side, and Shanbour reads the defense for a handoff. In the meantime, the three receivers on the right eat up four defenders. The offensive line opens up a hole for the halfback for what essentially becomes a 0-on-1 matchup. He gets a decent gainer, but the halfback is probably kicking himself for not baiting the defender outside, and then taking the middle lane.

Stick Combo Run

In this next packaged play, the halfback is on the weak side. The three receivers on the right again take up four defenders, with the attention of a fifth. The X receiver takes two defenders with him. This leaves one linebacker as the only defender in the second level. Shanbour takes a one step drop while the half back and right guard release for the draw play. The right guard blocks the lonely linebacker, and Shanbour easily goes in for the touchdown.

Stick Combo Draw

As we will see with a lot of Air Raid plays, in one simple play we see a decidedly fun and subtly complex set up. The QB has one read, which he must do quickly. The receivers stretch the field both horizontally and vertically, creating at least one 1-on-1 match up. It can be packaged with option and draw plays, leaving the runners with decent matchups once they get to the second level.

While the Y-stick is designed for moving the chains on high percentage throws underneath, I have a feeling the outside receivers are going to have a lot of fun with this play because Seth Littrell comes from the Leach branch of Air Raid which likes the downfield stuff. Slowly, we are starting to see the Air Raid vision come together, and will make for at least a fun season in 2016.