Smart Football has moved!

Please check out the new site, All future updates will be made there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Texas Tech run game cutups

For a team that throws it as much as Texas Tech does with Mike Leach, I get a surprising number of questions about the Airraid run game. The reason, I suppose, is that if you throw the ball a lot you need a good complementary run game that will take advantage of the defense when it overreacts to your passing game but also doesn't require too much practice time.

This topic deserves a fuller discussion later, but I was sparked when I saw these clips of Texas Tech's spring football. Video below (hat tip Tortilla Report via Double-T Nation):

Okay, you might be saying, I see some guys running around, but what does it mean? Again, this topic deserves a fuller treatment, but here's some diagrams and quick explanations of Leach and Texas Tech's main run plays.


Base is essentially a "man" blocking run play that has each lineman block the man over them, and if uncovered, they head up to the linebackers. (The "fold" technique comes into play where there is a sort of "shaded" nose -- a defensive tackle who would be too difficult to "reach" for the guard -- so they can make a "fold" call at the line.) The play is easy to teach because it uses largely the same scheme as their main pass protection (big on big; back on backer) but uses drive blocking. Finally, this play is often mistaken for a "draw" -- it just looks like one when run from the shotgun.


"Lead" is your basic "isolation" play: all the linemen block "man on" or "down" and the lead blocker bursts into the hole and blocks the first man that shows; the ball carrier then cuts off the lead back's block. Tech uses this a lot when they get into any two-back set (whether from gun or those rare times under center). From shotgun this too looks a lot like a "lead draw," but it is really just one of the oldest plays in football run from Tech's funky wide line splits and shotgun.


The "stretch" has increasingly been a weapon for Leach over the past few years. A big reason is that Leach is now fully committed to the wide line splits, so at some point in the game the defensive ends tend to stop lining up so far outside the offensive tackles and instead line up heads up or inside them, thus giving the offensive guy an easy "reach" block to hook the defender inside. As a result the runningback has an easy spring to the outside.


Leach's run game is not complicated and no one will confuse Tech with Paul Johnson's flexbone option teams, but they have had decentbalance (depending how you define it) over the years and the run plays are some of the most tried and true schemes around. He just uses them from his spread sets, and only when the defense is completely stretched out.


dacoachmo said...

The video is now gone..those darn sneaky Air Raid guys!!

Anonymous said...

Chris, how hard is it to get the double teams or to down block out of wide splits?

Also when TT (or Kentucky before them) goes under center they are often in an offset I backfield seldom a straight I. What does TT run to the backside to keep the backers from flying to the side of the FB/HB.

Obvioulsly reverse and bootleg help. But in short yardage you would think you would want to be able to attack the bubbles on both sides of the center.

These are two things I have always wordered about with the Air Raid run game.

Chris said...

Hmm, I guess the video is gone. That's unfortunate: it was great overhead and background of a bunch of run plays. I will see if I can track anything else down.

Brad: It's very hard to get double teams out of the wide splits. Down blocks? It depends, mostly on where the defensive linemen line up. It's a judgment call, and they can also bring their splits in some too to help out. But the wide splits also takes some defensive linemen completely out of the play also.

And as far as the offset-I stuff, one thing I know they did was just run away from the offset fullback. (He usually would seal the backside DE.) That helps break tendencies. That said, their offset-I formation running game was not exactly robust, so they only used it in spots anyway.

Brad said...

Thanks for your answers Chris.

This post inspired me to go back and watch two tapes I have from Tech games. One from the Kingbury years vs NC State and the other from the bowl game vs UVA two years ago. There was a lot of running by Tech in the NC State game.

One thing I noticed them doing a lot is running the "Lead" play out of one back more like inside zone. The H back still blocks the LB but just from a wide position. And they still double the tackles up to the backers.

The one thing I really like about the Tech running game is that they really hit the hole and don't go sideways much. A lot of passing teams run zone plays that lose yardage too much. Thus those teams bog down in the red zone/short yardage sometimes. Tech's running game seems to be built around short yardage and keeping the defense honest.

Also quick question. Those diagrams look like they are from the Leach OU playbook but they are a little different. Did you change them or is there another playbook out there.

Mr.Murder said...

Leach does all runs from checkdowns.