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What Virginia Tech Can Expect From East Carolina's Air Raid Offense

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The Hokies will have their hands full when East Carolina has the ball Saturday in Lane Stadium. The Pirates have installed a new offense, patterned after the Air Raid offense made famous by Mike Leach at Texas Tech. ECU's offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley, coached receivers at Texas Tech the last three years and called plays in the team's Alamo Bowl win last year.

What we'll see out of Pirates is a fast-paced offense that will throw the ball on the majority of downs. We'll take a closer look at the offense after the jump.

Required Reading

Brophy Football - Every post at Brophy Football on the Air Raid, focusing mainly on Louisiana Tech. It includes a lot of videos of the Bulldogs' practices and a lot of information on the offensive line blocking schemes in the offense.

Smart Football - Every post at Smart Football on the Air Raid, an offense Chris Brown has a vast knowledge of. He has the most common plays in the offense. He also has a lot of highlight and cut-up videos of it.

Kentucky's Air Raid Offense - The originators presented their offense at the AFCA convention in 1999.

The Passing Game

  • There aren't a lot of plays in the Air Raid offense. However, the Pirates will run several different route combinations off of the same play, so while to the naked eye it doesn't look like there is a lot going on, there is a countless number of variations off the same play.
  • Expect to see a lot of crossing routes and short, inside routes from East Carolina's receivers. The goal is to create confusion, force missed assignments and get receivers open quickly so the quarterback doesn't have the ball in his hands too long.
  • Receivers also aren't locked into running certain routes. They're given the freedom to break off and find open spots in the opponents' defense, especially on vertical routes.
  • A key to the offense is for the quarterback to know where the receivers are going to be and to know how they're going read and react to coverage. That's why you'd see mostly seniors having success in Leach's offense at Texas Tech and why Dominique Davis is the quarterback at ECU. Unless the quarterback is special, they have to be experienced to have success in the Air Raid.
The Run Game
  • Just like with the passing game, there aren't a whole lot of run games in the Air Raid. In fact, there's really only three.
  • Which of these plays are run often depends on how the opposing defense plays against the offense's wide line splits. If the defensive line spreads out as well so the defensive ends can get around the tackle to the quarterback, you'll see more inside runs. If they play straight up, they'll run to the outside.
  • The runs plays will also be out of the option and with the addition of Davis, ECU can run zone-read plays if it so desires. These plays killed us against JMU, so expect to see more of it this week.

How to Stop the Air Raid
  • Teams that have success against the Air Raid are teams that are able to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the run.
  • By putting pressure on the quarterback, you disrupt the quarterback's timing and force passes into coverage before they can find holes in coverage. By stopping the run, you take away their best weapon against focusing on dropping guys into coverage and force long-yardage and longer-developing plays.
  • Jamming the receivers at the line also disrupts the timing of the offense. Rashad Carmichael and Jayron Hosley need to be physical and aggressive at the start of the play against ECU's receivers.
  • Another good defense against the Air Raid is a ball control offense that keeps it on the sideline. The Hokies usually have success with this and it will be something we'll need to see them have more success with this week against the Pirates.
  • One of the better teams at stopping the Air Raid while Mike Leach was there was Oklahoma. Bob Stoops only lost to Texas Tech twice. Both were in Lubbock and one was on a very controversial play at the end of the game. Here's the result of the Red Raiders' last trip to Norman under Leach. The Sooners pressured the quarterback the whole night, ran the ball well and effectively shut down Leach's best offense at Texas Tech.