In American football the air raid offense refers to an offensive scheme popularized by such coaches as Mike Leach, Hal Mumme, Sonny Dykes, and Tony Franklin during their respective tenures at Iowa Wesleyan University, Valdosta State, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Louisiana Tech, and Washington State.

The system is designed out of a shotgun formation with four wide receivers and one running back. The formations are a variation of the run and shoot offense with two outside receivers and two inside slot receivers. The offense also uses trips formations featuring three wide receivers on one side of the field and a single receiver on the other side.


The offense first made its appearance when Mumme and Leach took over at Iowa Wesleyan College and Valdosta State University and had success there during the late 1980s and early 1990s.[1][2] The first exposure into NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) was at the University of Kentucky starting in 1997. There, head coach Hal Mumme and assistant coach Mike Leach helped turn quarterback Tim Couch into a consensus All-American in 1998, and later a first overall NFL draft pick. Leach then served as offensive coordinator at the University of Oklahoma in 1999 before landing the head coaching job at Texas Tech. Shortly into the early 2000s, assistant coaches started landing head coaching jobs such as Chris Hatcher at Valdosta State, Art Briles (first at Houston then Baylor), Sonny Dykes (first at Louisiana Tech, then at California), Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina, Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, and Kevin Sumlin (first at Houston, then Texas A&M). Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury (Mike Leach's first quarterback at Texas Tech) ran the offense as well.[3] As of 2016, 7 out of the top 10 college leaders in career passing percentages—all above 68.6 percent—were Air Raid quarterbacks.[4]

Air raid system

The scheme is notable for its focus on passing, as 65–75% of the offensive plays are passing plays. The quarterback has the freedom to change the play called audible based on what the defensive team shows him at the line of scrimmage. In at least one instance, as many as 90% of the run plays called in a season were chosen by audible at the line of scrimmage.[5]

An important element in this offense is the offense does not huddle, also known as the No-huddle offense. The offense gets to the line of scrimmage as soon as the previous play ends. The quarterback then diagnoses what the defense is showing, and starts the next play quickly. The quarterback is responsible for the audible play calls most of the time. The quick pace of the offense not only allows a team to come back if they are many points behind,[6] but also tires out the defense and keep them off balance by limiting player substitutions.

Another important aspect of the air raid offense is the positioning, or split of the offensive linemen. In a conventional offense, the linemen are bunched together fairly tightly but in an air raid offense, linemen are often split apart about a half to a full yard from one another. While in theory this allows easier blitz lanes, it forces the defensive ends and defensive tackles to run further to reach the quarterback for a sack. The quick, short passes offset any blitz that may come. Another advantage is that by forcing the defensive line to widen, it opens up wider than normal passing lanes for the quarterback to throw through, decreasing the chances of having the pass knocked down or intercepted.

Fundamental air raid play concepts are designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly, stretch the defense thinly across the field in all directions, and allow the quarterback to key on one defensive player who is forced to make a decision on which receiver to cover in his assigned area. Air raid plays are commonly designed to beat zone coverages, but they also work well against man-to-man defenses since an air raid offense often employs receivers with better than average speed which gives them an advantage in man-to-man coverage.



  1. ^ "2017 Hall of Fame Inductees". Iowa Wesleyan University Athletics. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  2. ^ "Hal Mumme (2016) - Hall of Fame". Valdosta State University Athletics. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  3. ^ "Kliff Kingsbury is giving us the future stat nerds want for the NFL". USA Today. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  4. ^ Gwynne, S.C. (2016-09-20). "Epilogue: The Game Changes". The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Invention of Football. Scribner. ISBN 978-1501116193.
  5. ^ Lewis, Michael (December 4, 2005). "Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2023. (subscription required)
  6. ^ Scoggins, Chip (December 30, 2006). "Insight Bowl: Historic collapse". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on December 18, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  7. ^ "Ex-Kentucky coach Mumme joins SMU's staff". 20 March 2013.