The Air Raid has held a cult following since Hal Mumme and Mike Leach threw Tim Couch on the field in Lexington, KY and he proceeded to throw for 8,435 yards and 74 touchdowns in a smidge more than two seasons for the Wildcats. Since that moment with the mainstream, Mumme has gone on to be the subject of the book The Perfect Pass, start his own online certification program, and now serve as play caller for the XFL’s Dallas Renegades.
During his time in the college ranks, he hired a young up start lawyer named Mike Leach. Leach has gone on to have one of the more impressive coaching trees in college football, having groomed the likes of Dana Holgorsen (Houston), Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma), Sonny Dykes (SMU), Robert Anae (UVA OC), Bill Bedenbaugh (Oklahoma OC), Graham Harrell (USC OC), Mark Mangino, Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals), Josh Heupel (UCF), Jake Spavital (Texas State), Art Briles, Dino Babers (Syracuse), Sonny Cumbie (TCU), Tony Franklin (Middle Tennessee State OC), Phillip Montgomery (Tulsa), and Seth Littrell (North Texas).
Most of us remember the Texas Tech upset win over Texas in 2008 as the ball sailed from Graham Harrell’s hand into Michael Crabtree’s arms to win 39-33 in Lubbock. Leach was then fired at TTU, and resurfaced in Pullman as the head coach of the Washington State Cougars. Since then he’s been hired as the head coach at Mississippi State and will bring his very pure style of Air Raid with him. Expect to see all of the staples like “6,” Mesh, Y-Cross, and Shallow down in Starkville.
So what can ‘Canes fans expect from Rhett Lashlee? Well first he was looking for an Air Raid wide receivers coach and landed the former Arizona State offensive coordinator Rob Likens. Likens has coached at ASU, Kansas and Cal in recent years and is a former passing game coordinator, as well as a quarterback and wide receiver coach. Lashlee, who will be working with Miami’s QB’s, has brought in a staff of guys that understand the system and know how to make it work.
The Perfect Pass, S.C. Gwynne
The Perfect Pass (Link to purchase) is a book by S.C. Gwynne (he also wrote the fantastic book Empire of the Summer Moon) and it details the journey of Air Raid inventor Hal Mumme. Mumme’s story travels all over the world of high school and college football, from Texas to Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, and Kentucky while inventing and perfecting his Air Raid system.
Mumme has toyed around with this personnel groupings and formations but his Theory of Relativity holds strong. The Air Raid preaches using all 53 1⁄3 yards of horizontal space and all 100+ yards of vertical space, too. No matter if it was at Kentucky where Hal used 21 personnel because of the talent already on campus (the Wildcats were a running team before Mumme arrived) or other stops that have seen a more 11 personnel approach (one running back and one tight end)- the staples of mesh, cross and shallow remain consistent.
Gwynne doens’t just follow Hal’s journey as a coach, but also the scheme and how it evolved from gap blocking run plays to zone blocking to take advantage of needing quicker tackles on the outside. It looks at screens, draws and vertical pass setting, too.
The Essential Smart Football, Chris B. Brown
Chris B. Brown’s manifesto on football scheme called The Essential Smart Football (Link to purchase) takes the reader up in and around the innovations of schematic football. Brown depicts the invention of the 3-3-5, the Bud Foster 4-4 and how it had to adapt to spread offenses, and Urban Meyer’s spread option- but he also discusses two main topics to ‘Canes fans heading into 2020.
Pages 21-29 of Essential focus on the Mike Leach book Swing Your Sword, but also on Leach’s infamous play “6,” which nearly every offense has installed since Texas Tech’s upset over the Longhorns. You don’t get the same detail on 6 that you would in Pass or other books but you can get a nice introduction to Mike Leach’s baby.
Another section of Essential that focuses on Lashlee’s philosophy are pages 121-128 where Brown discusses the Gus Malzahn offense. No matter how long ago Lashlee worked for Gus, and how estranged their once tight relationship might have become, Rhett will always have the Malzahn philosophy of outnumbering guys at the point of attack in his playbook and back of his mind.
That little gun inside trap for the first touchdown is beautiful https://t.co/hCA9czyME6— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) January 20, 2020
You can learn quite a bit about the Air Raid offense just from watching YouTube. The beauty of the technology age we now live in is that you don’t need to drive up to a Glazier Clinic in order to learn philosophy, scheme, or anything regarding football anymore. There are clinics being held everyday that include film and chalk talk sessions for free online.
On YouTube, I would recommend Coach McKie. Coach McKie is a spread offense expert, and his page is loaded with clinics on individual plays, passing concepts, the use of tight ends, and even has some older videos of guys like Mouse Davis talking Run & Shoot (the predecessor of the Air Raid).
Coach Singleton (@slade248) is a great Twitter reference out there on passing concepts and his “More with 4” system. He’ll be serving as the offensive coordinator at Asheville High School in North Carolina in 2020.
Good morning coaches, let's talk concept's that you install to beat multiple coverage's. Make sure to use #MultipleCoverageMonday with your reply's! @coachmikerowe @Coach_J_Clark @CoachMckieJr @DrewCPiscopo @patrick_taylor4 @CoachDubMaddox @coachcoltharp @fbcoachsimpson pic.twitter.com/aFYQKiKVkJ— Coach Singleton (@slade248) February 3, 2020
There’s also Air Raid aficionado Drew Piscopo (@DrewPiscopo). Drew is a die hard Air Raid coach who has clinic’ed with Hal Mummer and Mike Leach in the past.
Another great Raid source is Patrick Taylor (@patrick_taylor4). Coach Taylor’s Open Grass Reads materials are mandatory reading material for anyone looking to get into the Air Raid philosophy of life and football.
Of course there are more traditional clinics, too. In 2019, the Foothills Air Raid Clinic brought Hal Mumme to North Carolina. In 2020 another clinic will take place, this time in Fayetteville, NC, with Hal, Drew, Patrick and many other Air Raid gurus including UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
Get Your Tickets for "Air Raid Nation" Today. It's going to be a GREAT CLINIC https://t.co/OBvkqSg6d2— Coach Coltharp (@coachcoltharp) February 3, 2020
Air Raid Certification
If you’re really looking for a deep dive there’s always Hal Mumme’s Air Raid Certification (click here). It’s $500 up front and $500 more on the back end but there’s no one better to learn the scheme from than Hal himself. Hal will take you on a learning journey through chalk talk, film cut-ups and diagrams that includes test and an official certification.
The Air Raid has taken on all walks of life in the modern era of college and pro football. Every team is running Air Raid concepts from shallow to 6 and even mesh. The idea of RPO’s was even an aspect Mumme used in the 90’s with Tim Couch against the Florida Gators defense.
Today, Air Raid coaches have adopted and adapted the system to fit their needs from the way Dana runs the football and comes out in diamond pistol formations, to Lincoln Riley going full Malzahn in 2019, and of course Harrell down at USC in Los Angeles. While Leach might be the only one (and I guess Mumme now in the XFL, too) running a more pure form- even Leach has added concepts like Stick and 6 over the years.
If you’re looking for more info, of course we’ve also had some Air Raid conversations on SOTU. I wrote about the concept in my pieces called “What exactly is the spread offense?” and “The art of calling plays as an offensive coordinator.” Oh and of course Leach’s quote videos are always good for a laugh.