Is the Air Raid about to go deep?

SOMETHING CLICKED in Year 3 of Mike Leach's tenure at Texas Tech. Leach's QB his first two seasons averaged about 3,460 passing yards and 23 TDs. But in that third year, his QB threw for 5000-plus yards and 45 TDs. What changed, and could the same thing happen at in Leach's third season at WSU in 2014?

What happened was that Mike Leach changed his approach to the four verticals, which he calls the "6".

But Leach didn't just send his four guys running deep every play and hope to hit one of them.

In his book Swing Your Sword, Leach says the four receivers running verticals and the quarterback truly got on the same page his third year. Depending on how the defender chooses to play the route, the receiver would make his read and adjust his route accordingly.

The QB, as long as he and the receiver are on the same page, will find the same crease.

Call it four verticals with an immediate read, call it read-on-the-fly, call it whatever you want.

What it did was exponentially increase the amount of square footage a defense has to cover.

This ‘throw it where they aren't approach' takes time. If a receiver isn't on the same page as his QB he might get a football in his ear hole.

"The execution of this requires months and even years of practice," says Leach in his book. "However, the space is always there, and it's impossible for the defense to cover."

And while it takes time, it's not as if college football turnover means you have to start over from scratch. At Tech, in Year 4 of Leach's tenure, a first-time starting QB tossed 52 TDs, in large part because of how well he and the wideouts executed the "6".

Many offenses see an outside receiver flourish when running verticals but Leach's slot receiver, Wes Welker, was hugely productive as a result of the "6", as Chris Brown in The Essential Smart Football points out.

If Cougar slotmen River Cracraft, Brett Bartolone or someone else improves on their ability to find the creases in a defense off a four vertical set, their numbers this season might leap off the page by the time December rolls around.

Connor Halliday threw for 4,597 yards this past season and 34 TDs. Those are impressive numbers but might they wind up closer to 5,000 and 45 TDs in 2014?

And if so, will it be because the Air Raid at Wazzu evolves in Year 3 the same way it did down in Lubbock in Leach's third year?

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