I can't wait to see Mike Leach's Washington State offense next season. It should be interesting to see how much of an impact he will have on the Pac-12. He certainly made a huge impact on the Big-12 at Texas Tech. The Big-12 had always been a run oriented area of football until 1999. That's when Leach took over as the offensive coordinator of the Oklahoma Sooners. The next season, Tech hired him as the head coach, and a decade later, look at what the Big-12 has become.
What Leach has accomplished using only a handful of plays is truly remarkable. If you were to watch Leach's Air Raid offense you would think that the offense is completely confusing the defense with a plethora of different route concepts. But that is the furthest thing from the truth. Leach only uses about six drop back passing plays and another six quick game concepts. His whole philosophy is that he wants his players to out-execute the defense.
To make things even more simple for his players, Leach's offense isn't even symmetric. That is, he doesn't even run some of his plays to both sides of the field. Take a look at the y-sail play below.
This is a strong side flood play that every team in the country probably uses. But Leach only runs this play to the right. The tight end, or Y-receiver never even lines up on the left side of the field. Therefore, Leach never uses a strong side flood to the left. He has a weak side flood to the left called Y-cross.
Next season, watch how often Leach calls this play on third and long. It was ridiculous how often guys like Graham Harrell would complete this pass to the y-receiver on third and 10 and keep the chains moving. Of course, Leach uses this play from different looks.
He usually uses this play from a four wide set. The half back is replaced by a slot receiver on the left and he just runs a quick out pattern and is the hot receiver.
Leach also uses this play as his lone play-action pass. The receivers run the exact same routes and if the linebackers come up on the fake, the y-receiver will be wide open behind them. It may look like a different play to the defense, but it is the exact same play for the receivers and the quarterback. Now that is keeping it simple for your players.
Not only does Leach keep it simple for the skill position players. He also keeps things simple for his offensive lineman. He uses only one protection, a man scheme. The running back makes a simple "Roger" or "Louie" call, indicating right or left, telling the lineman which way to block. Below is the scheme versus a 4-2 defense. The back just checks the linebacker to his side, if he doesn't blitz, the back releases on his given route.
By using only a man scheme, the lineman can focus on technique. In Leach's Air Raid, the lineman are expected to win their one on one battles. He does not give them much help.
By keeping the scheme so simple, Leach is able to allow his quarterbacks to call any play that he sees fit. In fact, I've heard Leach say that he will get on the quarterback if he doesn't get the team out of a bad play. Not many coaches want their quarterback to change a play that the coach has called. But Leach feels if he can teach his quarterback to audible correctly, "there's tons of touchdowns to be had."
With all the passing from four wide sets, the defense will often leave only five defenders in the box. The quarterback can then audible to a basic draw play shown down below. It doesn't get much easier than this. For a coach that is considered a creative genius, he sure runs a simple offense. The thing about Leach is that he didn't invent anything in his offense, but he is intelligent to realize that execution and technique are more important than a particular scheme.
I don't know how many games the Cougars will win next year, but it is sure going to be entertaining.