The Crimson Air Raid?

MIKE LEACH IS bringing his Air Raid offense to Pullman. But what does that really mean? What's in store for the Cougs offensively in the Mike Leach era? We went to his book, Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life, for answers.

Crossing routes: Mike Leach likes ‘em because they're disruptive and difficult for defenders to cover. "Give a defender cause for indecision and you just made him play slow," he writes.

Screen passes: Leach loves to use them because they force defensive linemen to change direction and chase. Over the course of the game, it wears them out. And then a whole lot more things open up. If you're an offensive lineman or wide receiver who plays for Leach, you're going to have to be in tip-top shape, because you will be running a lot more on Saturdays than you have been.

Wide gaps: As in at least a three foot gap for the o-line splits. Why? In part, because it forces the defensive ends to travel further to reach the quarterback, and it makes it harder to run stunts. The first thing people worry about is a QB under siege but Leach says pass protection is actually better, not worse. The running and passing lanes are wider, reducing the traffic in the middle for the QB and RB. The better it works the wider Leach tends to have the o-linemen split.

Lots of formations, not plays: Leach believes you can be too complex with too many plays. And so there isn't really that many that he runs. Now, formations they're run out of, that's a different story altogether. "Simply put: If you wanna screw with the defense, screw with the formations, not the plays."

Details, Details, Details: Leach likes to attack every single area of the field. To do that successfully, execution and fundamentals are required, not a ton of different plays. "Are our hips low? Are we getting our heads around? Are our eyes in the right place? Where were our hands? And on and on it goes. Simply put: "Technique is more important than scheme."

Playbook: There is no book, not in the physical sense with words and diagrams on paper bound together. Leach hasn't had a playbook in years. For Leach, a "playbook" consists of the cut-ups on video. At practice, Leach will just say, we're working on these plays today. And then he wants the players to jump in and stay afloat.

Balance: Forget about 50-50 run-pass, says Leach. That isn't balance. Balance is where every skill player touches the ball, every position contributes to scoring. It's not just about personnel, it's also about utilizing all the space on the field.

In your face: While at Oklahoma, he drew up a fake play list and left it on the field at the walk-thru for the game at Texas. It called for a double reverse pass on the second play of the game. Oklahoma didn't have a double-reverse pass play in their repertoire. Texas' DC was handed the fake play sheet and quickly stuffed it in his pocket. When the game got underway, players were yelling to be ready for the DRP at the line of scrimmage, but Leach had called a play that would work perfectly if the defense was defending a DRP. They oversold and Leach ran a crossing route. "It was funny. We just thought it would give them something else to think about. Instead it gave us an easy touchdown and some momentum." Texas, though, still eventually won that game.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • The situation might be different at WSU, but a current assistant or two might not be in Leach's plans is he follows the same route he did at Tech. "Typically, retaining the old guys just doesn't work very well. Under one coaching staff, you're telling the players one thing. Under another coaching staff, you're telling them something else."

  • Academics are hugely important to Leach, and drug use is something that he will not tolerate, he says in his book. Leach noted that he had the highest graduation rate of any public institution playing major college football at the time he was fired.

  • Cougfan Top Stories