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Air raid offense

In American football the air raid offense refers to an offensive scheme popularized by such coaches as Mike Leach, Hal Mumme, Sonny Dykes, and Tony Franklin during their tenures at Valdosta State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Louisiana Tech, and Washington State.

The system is designed out of a shotgun formation with four wide receivers and one running back. The formations are a variation of the run and shoot offense with two outside receivers and two inside slot receivers. The offense also utilizes trips formations featuring three wide receivers on one side of the field and a lone single receiver on the other side.


  • History 1
  • Air raid system 2
  • Coaches 3
  • References 4
  • Other links 5


The offense owes a lot to the influence of BYU Head Coach LaVell Edwards who utilized the splits and several key passing concepts during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s while coaching players such as Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Robbie Bosco, and Ty Detmer. Mike Leach has made reference that he and Hal Mumme largely incorporated much of the BYU passing attack into what is now known as the Air Raid offense. Some of the concepts such as the Shallow Cross route have been incorporated into such offenses as the West Coast Offense during the early 1990s as well, prominently under Mike Shanahan while he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos.

The offense first made its appearance when Mumme & Leach took over at Iowa Wesleyan College and Valdosta State University and had success there during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first exposure into Division 1A was at the University of Kentucky starting in 1997. There, Mumme and Leach helped turned highly touted QB Tim Couch into a star and later a 1st Round pick in the NFL Draft. Mike Leach would then coordinate the offense at the University of Oklahoma in 1999 to moderate success before landing the head coaching job at Texas Tech. Shortly into the early 2000s, assistant coaches started landing coaching jobs such as Chris Hatcher at Valdosta State, Art Briles (first at Houston then Baylor), and Kevin Sumlin (first at Houston then Texas A&M). Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury (Mike Leach's former quarterback at Texas Tech) runs the offense also.

Air raid system

The Scheme is notable for being very pass centric with as many as 65-75% of the calls during a season being a pass play. A large reason is due to the control that is placed on the QB who has the freedom to audible to any play based on what the defense is showing him at the line of scrimmage. In at least one instance, as a result of the QB's ability to audible, as many as 90%[1] of the run plays called in a season were audibled to at the line of scrimmage.

Another factor in this offense is the inclusion of the no huddle. The QB and the offense race up to the line of scrimmage, diagnose what the defense is showing, and then snap the ball based on the QB's play call. This not only allows a team to come back if they are down a lot as seen in the 2006 Insight Bowl[2] but it also allows them to tire out the defense and allow for bigger runs and bigger pass completions.

One important aspect is the split of the offensive linemen. Normally they are bunched together but in this offense, they are often split apart about a half to a full yard from another. While this allows easier blitz lanes in theory, it forces the defensive ends and defensive tackles to have to run further to reach the quarterback for a sack. The quick, short passes are then able to offset any Blitz that may come. Another advantage is that by forcing the defensive line to widen, it opens up more wide open passing lanes for the QB to throw the ball through without fear of having their pass knocked down or intercepted.


  • Hal Mumme - head coach at Valdosta State 1992-1996, Kentucky 1997-2000, SE Louisiana 2003-2004, New Mexico State 2005-2008, and McMurry 2009-2012; offensive coordinator at SMU[3] 2013–present.
    • Mike Leach - offensive coordinator under Mumme at Valdosta State 1992-1996 and Kentucky 1997-1998, then at Oklahoma in 1999; head coach at Texas Tech 2000-2008; head coach at Washington State 2012–present.
      • Mark Mangino - offensive line coach at Oklahoma in 1999 under Leach; offensive coordinator at Oklahoma 2000-2001 after Leach's departure; head coach at Kansas 2002-2009.
      • Art Briles - running backs coach at Texas Tech under Leach from 2000-2002; head coach at Houston 2003-2007 and Baylor 2008-present.
      • Ruffin McNeil - at Texas Tech under Leach as linebackers coach 2000-2006 and defensive coordinator 2007-2009; head coach at at East Carolina 2010–present.
      • Clay McGuire - offensive line coach at Washington State 2012 under Leach; played under Leach at Texas Tech.
      • Eric Morris - inside wide receivers coach at Washington State 2012 under Leach; played under Leach at Texas Tech; IWR coach at Texas Tech 2013–present.
      • Robert Anae - offensive line coach at Texas Tech 2000-2004 under Leach; offensive coordinator at BYU 2005-2010; OC at BYU 2013-present.
      • Josh Heupel - played QB under Leach (1999) and Mangino (2000) at Oklahoma. Coached quarterbacks at Oklahoma from 2006-2009 before serving as Co-OC from 2010–present for Oklahoma.
    • Tony Franklin - running backs coach at Kentucky 1997-1999, under Leach in 1998; offensive coordinator at Kentucky in 2000; offensive coordinator at Troy in 2006, Auburn 2007-2008, Middle Tennessee 2009, Louisiana Tech 2010-2012, and OC at California 2013–present.
    • Chris Hatcher - quarterbacks and receivers coach at Kentucky under Mumme in 1999; head coach at Valdosta State 2000-2006, Georgia Southern 2007-2009, and Murray State 2010-present.
    • Dana Holgorsen - quarterbacks and wide receivers coach under Mumme at Valdosta State 1993-1995; at Texas Tech under Leach as wide receivers coach 2000-2006 and offensive coordinator in 2007; offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Houston under Kevin Sumlin 2008-2009; offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2010; head coach at West Virginia 2011–present.
    • Sonny Dykes - wide receivers coach at Kentucky under Mumme in 1999 and Texas Tech under Leach 2000-2006; offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona 2007-2009; head coach at Louisiana Tech 2010-2012; head coach at California starting in 2013.
  • Kevin Sumlin - wide receivers coach at Purdue 1998-2000, offensive coordinator at Texas A&M 2001-2002 and Oklahoma 2006-2007; head coach at Houston 2008-2011 and Texas A&M 2012-present.
    • Kliff Kingsbury - quarterback at Texas Tech 1998-2002, under Leach 2000-2002; offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Houston under Sumlin 2010-2011; offensive coordinator at Texas A&M under Sumlin in 2012; head coach at Texas Tech 2013–present.


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Other links

  • Highlights of the air raid offense from Texas Tech's 2007 season
  • Highlights of the Mesh Route performed by Texas Tech and New Mexico State
  • The Shallow Cross Route as performed by Brigham Young in a game
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