Z Wide Receiver: In Mike Leach's offense, each receiving position is designed to have a similar amount of catches and yards. The Z receiving position primarily runs the deep threat patterns. Joel Filani and Carlos Francis have been the most dominant players at this position in Leach's tenure, and both have been very good at creating separation and getting open deep. Francis and Filani's abilities suited the position with their combination of speed and putting themselves in position to catch everything that is thrown their way. The beauty of the deep patterns is that opposing defensive backs are forced to increase the cushion that they give the receiver. This is when the Z receiver can switch to the shorter routes, such as button hooks and quick crossing routes. Expect Joel Filani to terrorize defenders as a Z next year.
Y Inside Receiver: The Y receiver is one of two inside receiver positions that primarily take care of the shorter yardage routes including curls, slants and outs. When the quarterback is in trouble, the Y is usually the first direction that he looks. The Y receiver is effective because they are normally covered either by a linebacker or a safety. When covered by a linebacker, the Y will usually have the edge in speed and agility and allow them to get open with relative ease. If covered by a safety, the Y receiver will likely have a few steps on them due to the edge in momentum. Of the four receiver positions, speed is not as much of a concern at the Y position as it is at the others. In fact, the 3 starters that have held the Y receiving position in the Air Raid during Coach Leach's tenure have all been quick-footed, but not necessarily fast.
Y Tight End: The Y tight end is essentially a change-of-pace receiver. While the Y TE does not see the field that often, he provides an additional dimension to the offense when he is put in the game. Many times, the Y TE can slip out of the line as a receiver. He can normally outmaneuver a linebacker or overpower defensive backs. The Y TE is also utilized in the running game out of the twin TE set when blocking is needed. Furthermore, he will occasionally chip the defensive end on occasion to help assist in pass protection.
H Inside receiver: The H-back is generally the shortest in stature of the starting receivers, but is also the most agile and quickest on cuts. The H-back uses his speed and elusiveness to turn the nickel and/or dime corner inside out. Wes Welker was the quintessential player for this position, and simply couldn't be covered. Currently, Danny Amendola, who has been nicknamed Wes 2.0, has fit the mold well. The key to this position is the ability to attack the open areas. The H-back is used in third-down situations, and must possess reliable hands. He is also a threat on screens and end-arounds to help combat the defensive pass rush.
H TE/FB: The H TE is the only skill position that doesn't catch a fair number of passes. The player at this position is a very good run blocker and physical pass blocker, who is willing to assist the tackle in pass rush situations or blow open holes for the backs in running situations. Last year, David Schaefer only caught one pass for 5 yards, but was instrumental in helping Taurean Henderson break several big gains, including his longest scoring run of the year against Indiana State University.
X Wide Receiver: The X receiver has a mission that is similar to that of the Z receiver. The X is usually the tallest and most physical receiver on the team, and isn't afraid to fight the DBs for the ball or take hard hits to get the first down. The X receiver gets the majority of the fade passes thrown to them since the physicality inherent to the position makes it a logical destination for that pass. Jarrett Hicks and Anton Paige made Texas Tech's X position fearsome in the red zone by scoring touchdowns with ease. He is one that is very difficult to cover in man coverage due to the height and jumping advantage of the X receiver. Occasionally, the X forces double coverage, which plays right into Leach's hands and opens up the other receivers to catch passes in single coverage.
Running Back (F-back): In most offenses, the running back catches the occasional designed pass, or will throw a block before heading into the flats without expecting to have a pass thrown their way. In the Air Raid offense, this is not the case. The F-back will normally rush for 800-900 yards along with an additional 500-700 yards receiving in a single season. The F-back is also required to pass block on nearly every pass play. While in other offensive systems, the running back may simply chip a guy coming on a blitz, the back in the Air Raid is required to normally stand up and block anyone from a blitzing corner to a linebacker or defensive end. The F-back is also the primary threat on screens or shovel passes, which effectively slows down the pass rush in Leach's offense. Only time will tell if next year's running back can do all these tasks well like Taurean Henderson did.
Offensive Line: Many opposing teams are appalled at the wide splits that Tech's O-line uses, but it's hard to argue with the success that they have had. This system forces pass rushers to run further to reach the QB, and has proven to be effective in protection. It also enables the quarterback to see through these lanes to find the open receivers. The offensive line is the final important piece that makes the Air Raid successful. Red Raider fans can't wait to find out how good the offense can be this year.