Some AirRaid Links

I have always liked the Air Raid offense, mostly because it was so radical in a time when the football I watched was so homogenous. NFL football was all the same basically. College football was a little more diverse, with occasional option attacks existing here and there. I was tickled by an all-passing squad 1. It was only later that I realized that Air Raid was not just passing for passing’s sake, but was actually a philosophy of getting the ball into playmaker’s hands — which is actually the same philosophy of any good offense.

The Air Raid has been called spread, four-wide, or modern and really all of those are misnomers. This kind of poor naming system has been a part of football for a while. After all, the split end and wide receiver, flanker, and end are all names we gave the guys at the end of the line. So when more were added to the ‘standard’ line up, coaches gave them names that fit. Sort of. Like slot or H and so on. Think about the quarter back and half back and full back and how those names do not really reflect positioning in the backfield any more. They once did, but offense evolved — as it will always — and the names do not.

When announcers were face with explaining a complicated and insider-y look of the 1995 Northwestern squads, or the late 90s Purdue squads, and later the 2000s Texas Tech teams, they went with spread as a descriptor to differentiate from the I, single-back, and relatively more compact-looking systems. The problem was that defining an offense by relative compactness is a poor line of demarcation. An option-heavy Tom Osborn Nebraska team lined up in an I formation.

For nearly a decade the 49ers, one of the best passing teams of the 80s and 90s passed often from this same look. The West Coast offense operated often from under center, with a full back and threw a ton.

I’m simplifying all this a lot just to make a point and that point is that formation has very little to do with intent. I recommend a perusal of Smart Football’s post on the history of the offense. For further fun, you can browse the following very interesting links to some of the teaching methods, ideas behind certain plays, and even an entire playbook.

Seth Littrell’s offense will be a little different than these, much the same way that Mike Leach’s offense changed after he left Oklahoma and established himself at Texas Tech. Even then, it evolved from the version Kliff Kingsbury manned in 2000 to the one helmed by our very own OC Graham Harrell in 2007.

Mike Leach’s discussion of practice techniques while he was OC at Kentucky. And his Oklahoma playbook

What I’m getting at is, regardless of what plays you run, the best thing we do at Kentucky is practice. We do a great job practicing specifically what we are going to run. We try to design our practices so they are centered around the skills and techniques we are going to use in games.

The above is good advice generally, and an integral part of what is termed ‘Air Raid’ generally. It’s really a set of philosophies about practicing and attacking the defense.

Holgerson and other Texas Tech coaches discussing the vertical passing game

Total Touches: The amount of times the entire position touched the ball throughout the course of the game either by rushing the ball or catching the ball. Naturally the “F” position will handle the ball the most because the majority of the rushes will come from this position. Also, it is easier to get him the ball because he is closer to the quarterback. The “H” and “Y” positions typically will touch the ball a little more than the “X” and “Z” positions because of proximity to the quarterback.

You will hear lots of complaints about not running the ball. Seth has already mitigated a little bit of this by mentioning that a good portion of runs will come from swing passes. Running the ball up the middle is great if you can do it effectively. North Texas for the past few years has been able to do this only against the worst teams. Now that the ball will be spread around more, running should be more effective even as a change of pace.

Coug Center did an excellent series on Air Raid concepts as they prepared for the Leach arrival.

Coach Leach favors 10 personnel. Personnel packages refer to what skill position players (TE, RB, WR) are on the field. The first digit identifies the number of running backs (RB) and the second the number of tight ends (TE). Therefore 10 personnel has 1 RB and 0 TE. The 4 wide receivers (WR) is implied, two of which must be on the line of scrimmage to satisfy the 7 total lineman requirement.

You might have noticed this a ton in today’s Spring Game. In fact, in today’s Slack2 conversation while watching the game, someone remarked that they loved the four-wide sets. Well we should be seeing a lot of these going forward.

Read away.


  1. Yes. Tickled 
  2. Send an email to ntm (at) meangreennation and I’ll invite you to the Slack.