The Air Raid offense has been a common theme for us in the Film Room. Mainly because every offense in college football is running some variation of it whether in their pass protection, their scheme as a whole, or just in certain concepts. Obviously with Kliff Kingsbury getting the head coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals, and two Air Raid QB’s winning the Heisman Trophy and going 1st overall in back-to-back NFL Drafts, the Air Raid is as popular as it was when Hal Mumme first arrived in Lexington, KY.
I have covered the idea of open grass reads, which is an Air Raid ideology on SOTU before (here); and I have discussed the 92 Mesh passing concept as well (here). You can watch me discuss the Air Raid with Mark Rogers, too (here).
Setting up the Y-Cross
In mesh (above), the goal of the play call is to make the inside linebackers always wrong. Mesh beats both zone and man coverage, and is an all around difficult play to defend. Even if the defense brought pressure, to keep the QB from being able to wait on the receivers to cross the field, the QB can always throw it early as the receivers should be watch, or he can hit his rush routes.
Mesh is a great play to set up the Y Cross. The linebackers will start to not only get worn out from chasing crossing receivers, but they’re also starting to lure their eyes close to the line of scrimmage. In order to combat the crossers running free, safeties are also going to walk down and play more aggressively shallow. That’s when a play like Y Cross works.
What is Y Cross?
Above you can see 95 Y Cross. The X receiver runs an outside release vertical route to take his cornerback with him. This helps to clear that side of the field. Often, that will also take the safety to the X side (the left of the offense) with him, too. Depending on the coverage, the CB might play the flat route from the H if you’re in 21 personnel like the image. Coach Mumme liked 21 personnel at Kentucky because they had athletic running backs when he arrived in Lexington.
Someone has to pick up that 5-yard out and often the CB will take that route and the safety will carry over the vertical. Where we hit on this play often is right in the middle of the field. Linebackers will either blitz, or split from each other- thus we hit this right where it says “zone” over the center.
Why it works
When the linebackers have been running shallow or crossing and switching, a play where the Y is dragging deep over the middle of the field allows him to be passed off. If the strong safety (labeled as $) runs with the Y, the Z’s dig route is wide open. If the strong safety sits on the dig, the Y Cross should be open, too.
The Air Raid depends on an accurate quarterback who can place the ball in small windows, and the wide receivers to have a feel for space and getting open. Unlike the west coast offense which has landmarks of exactly, to the inch, where a receiver should end their route- the Air Raid lives on spontaneity and adjusting based on space.
Adjusting Y Cross
Above, you can see the way that I like to run Y Cross. I’ve made adjustments to both make it easier to remember for high school kids, and based on things that we see from defenses at the high school level.
Both of my outside receivers will run outside release vertical routes. This will draw the defending cornerbacks away with the receivers, often leaving the 10 yard sail route open. If the safety jumps the sail, the Cross should be open, instead. The route now reads left to right and I haven’t had a left handed QB on my 2-deep in 17 years.
As you can see above, I’ve tagged the Z’s vertical route as a “rhythm” route. If that route is open it’s the first throw off the last step of the QB’s drop. If it’s covered or “CAP’d” instead the QB hitches his drop, and then reads the sail or cross called the “read.” If there’s pressure the QB should throw the “rush” route to the RB.
Impact on Miami
This will impact the ‘Canes because it’s a play that I can see really working with Jeff Thomas in the slot and Brevin Jordan at the H position. With vertical threats like Mike Harley and Brian Hightower on the outside, and a back with hands like Deejay Dallas coming out of the backfield- no receiver can be ignored or focused on against Miami.
The issue would be protection from the offensive line, and if one of N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams or Tate Martell can make the read and accurate throw at quarterback. Miami has the speed at the skill positions to make some of the Air Raid schemes that I’ve seen Dan Enos run really work. It’s all hinged on the protection and quarterback play.
Coach McKie has a great instructional video on Y Cross on his YouTube (below). I think this will give you even more detail on the play.