This is a trips concept where the bubble screen is paired with a trips screen concept to the single receiver side. It is usually paired with an interior run scheme like inside zone or power. Find out how here...
By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
The following research was conducted in part of XandOLabs.com special report on “Sam Houston State’s Air Raid Evolution.”
Bubble/X Screen Tag
This is a trips concept where the bubble screen is paired with a trips screen concept to the single receiver side. It is usually paired with an interior run scheme like inside zone or power. The quarterback makes the pre-snap decision based off leverage.
Where Space is Best Accessed:
If the defense has two defenders out to defend trips, we throw the bubble (Diagram 18).
If the defense has three out to defend three receivers (or what Coach Longo calls three match) the ball should be run (Diagram 19).
If there is a soft corner, the quick screen should be enacted (Diagram 20).
According to Coach Longo, it takes the QB a second to figure it out. The benefit of pairing the bubble with the screen tag is that it allows offensive linemen to advance downfield to block. One important note is that stand up rush defensive end to the boundary would negate the slice throw because he has potential to get into the throwing lane. “He’s a lot more athletic laterally who can make the tackle on the slice,” said Coach Longo. “The wider he is the worse he is in reading the inside zone read where he can close on the zone read. We won’t throw a lot of slices against four down teams.”
Sam Houston State's
Air Raid Evolution
How One Air Raid Program Has Geared Its Emphasis on WR Play, Not QB Play, to Achieve Astronomical Numbers
"Our receivers get a lot of freedom here and they are always right. We have incompletes because of bad throws, poor QB decisions or because of pressure. It's usually not because we are covered. The route progression is usually there."
-Phil Longo, Offensive Coordinator, Sam Houston State University (TX)
On the surface, the system being run in Huntsville, Texas may seem inherently ingrained in the Air Raid prototype developed decades ago by legendary coaches Mike Leach and Hal Mumme. Like many Air Raid systems, the Bearkats pride themselves on an up tempo offense. They ran 1,275 plays last season (85 per game), which were among the highest in the country. The results of this output were staggering:
- 1st in the FCS in total offense, averaging 531.7 yards per game.
- 7,975 yards of total offense, 3rd highest in Division 1 history.
- 1st in the FCS in first downs with 414, an all-time Southland Conference record.
- 27.6 first downs per game, an all-time Southland Conference record.
- 5th in the FCS in scoring offense, averaging 41.1 points per game.
- 9th in the FCS in rushing offense, averaging 254.5 yard per game
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo's approach to the passing game is entirely "Air Raid" by nature. He trains his quarterbacks to get the ball out of their hands quickly, teaches his receivers to chase space in zone coverages and run what he calls "cheaper," less structured, universal routes that are efficient against both zone and man coverages. Coach Longo will be the first to tell you his system is a disciple of the Air Raid. In fact, he's clinic'ed with Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia and Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech and takes a yearly spring visit to see Coach Leach in Pullman. In fact, they even recruit the same quarterbacks (Sam Houston signed a Washington State de-commit just this winter).
But the differences lay in one vital component, the alleviation of responsibility of the quarterback. While some "system" quarterbacks are grounded in the Air Raid, Coach Longo and his offensive staff doesn't ask the quarterback to handle a heavy workload such as identifying the Mike linebacker, reading coverage structures, checking protection or even communicating with the offensive line. In his words, this system is "quarterback friendly." "He is simply a distributor to our talent base. We don't want them (QBs) doing anything but completing balls," he told us. Which means the receivers, not the quarterbacks, are asked to identify coverage and make the proper adjustments against man and zone coverages. In this system, the quarterback doesn't read defenders; he instead looks for open receivers. Routes are built to win against any coverage. It's an alternative mindset that has come with its advantages. In Coach Longo's two-year tenure in Huntsville, the Bearkats have finished in the FCS Final Four two years in a row and have produced the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year in a two-quarterback system.
The premise of the offense is centered on two-receiver components, chasing space in zone coverages and gaining separation in man coverages. The malleability of the scheme provides an answer to any defensive adjustment. "Most people will say that offensive coordinators are not patient enough to throw 30 hitches a game, so defenses will start to play the deep ball and allow us to take those underneath routes," Coach Longo says. "With me that's not the case. I don't care how boring it is. If that's what you are going to give us than that's what I'm going to take." Often times, this access even comes in the form of an unloaded box in which Coach Longo takes advantage of by running the ball. The Bearkats were among the best in the nation in that category as well, which is philosophically anti-Air Raid. "They (defenses) are making us a better run team because they are defending the pass game all day. All we are doing is telling our players that they need to chase that space. We need to take advantage of the space. That is where the passing offense comes from."
Even Sam Houston State head coach KC Keeler credits the success of the offense to the offensive premise of taking what the defense gives you. "If you're going to play loose and cover our guys outside, we will run the ball all day on you," he told us. "We don't need to throw the football. Conversely, if you're going to cheat the box and take away our run game then we will hurt you all sorts of ways with our athletes. It's about getting our athletes in space. Coach Longo does a great job of creating space."
A Brand-New Special Report:
Sam Houston State's
Air Raid Evolution
We spent three days this spring studying the responsibility that Sam Houston State places on its receivers and quarterbacks. We were in the meeting rooms and had unfiltered access to the coaching staff. We present our research in this brand-new special report that is segmented into the following three cases:
Case 1: System Analysis and Role of Receivers
In this case, we provide a brief background of the Sam Houston State system, how it terms formations, personnel groupings and how it organizes its tempo verbiage. All of the components that make the system run quickly. Much of the onus of this productivity is placed on its receiving corps, in which a half a dozen players are rotated through on a weekly basis. Some of the research in this case includes:
- What receivers are expected to understand based on the pre-snap leverage of the defensive secondary.
- The pre-snap thought process that receivers are expected to undertake that distinguishes between man and zone coverages.
- How "space" is defined in zone coverage and the five fundamentals that Coach Longo and his offensive staff use to teach their receivers to access space in zone coverages.
- An analysis and drill film of the press push stem technique that allows receivers, not defenders, to dictate leverage by accessing any route concept.
- Why Sam Houston State teaches its receivers to count break foot steps in route running, rather than using landmarks.
- How using double pounds, instead of using chopping down on break points, provides for a more smoother route transition.
- An analysis and drill film of the look away technique that receiver use to gain separation from defenders at the break point of routes.
- How the 9 most efficient routes in Sam Houston State's route tree, fade, post curl, dig, snag, inside search, outside search, pivot, speed out and hook, are drilled against both man and zone coverage technique.
- How receivers are taught to gain separation against man coverage by using the pin and break, look lean and drive and backdoor technique.
- An analysis and drill film of the pin and break technique used by receivers to gain separation against press coverage at the line of scrimmage.
- An analysis and drill film of the look, lean and drive technique used by receivers to gain separation from defenders during the route stem.
- An analysis and drill film of the backdoor technique used by receivers to gain separation from defenders at the break point of the route.
Case 2: The Role of the Quarterback
In this case, we researched the responsibility that the quarterback has in running the system, particularly how he is trained to make the correct read on routes both pre and post snap. We also researched how he's taught to get the ball out quickly and efficiently. The Bearkats surrendered a meager 1.4 sacks per game last season. We found that the efficiency lies in his pre-snap understanding of free access space and how Coach Longo correlates the drop of the quarterback to the route progressions in the play concept. Some of the research in this case includes:
- The only two coverage types the quarterback is expected to diagnose pre-snap.
- Why quarterback progressions are referred to as looks, not reads.
- How quarterbacks are trained to read receivers and not defenders in their route progression.
- The benefits of having the quarterback back out, and not front out, of his drop by keeping his shoulders squared.
- An analysis and drill film of the facemask look off technique, which prevents defenders from triggering on routes.
- An analysis and drill film of the three drops quarterbacks are expected to know in this system and how they are tweaked against man or zone coverages.
- How play action drops are easily integrated into the three drop categories of the quarterback.
- Why Coach Longo teaches strike points for each route, which is the landmark where the quarterback should be connecting with receivers in his progression.
- The four categories of throws that quarterbacks are expected to throw in this system and the routes that correspond with each.
- An analysis and drill film of the Ghost Drill, which teaches quarterbacks to visual the proper footwork and strike points on each route concept of the Air Raid offense.
- An analysis and drill film of the Reload Drill, which teaches quarterbacks the proper footwork to use in sifting through their read progressions in the Air Raid offense.
Case 3: Route and Route Concepts That Attack Space
In this case, we delve into the specifics of the pass game at Sam Houston State University, which is centered on quick game concepts with even quicker release points by the quarterback. We focused our research on the six universal Air Raid route concepts and how the Bearkats are teaching the concepts as it pertains to finding space in zone coverages and gaining separation in man coverages. Some of the research in this case includes:
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Bubble/X Screen concept, which is a quick game tag off the Bearkats run game.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Fade/Out concept, which is a quick game tag off the Bearkats run game.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Slant/Bubble concept, which is a quick game tag off the Bearkats run game.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Double Slant concept, which is a quick game tag off the Bearkats run game.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Triangle Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid System.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Shallow Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid system.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Spacing Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid system.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Mesh Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid system.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Stick Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid system.
- An analysis and film breakdown of how pre and post-snap space is accessed in the Flood Concept, which is a staple in the Air Raid system.
Bonus: 2 Hours of Game and Practice Film!
This brand-new special report includes two hours of game and practice film. You will read a concept or drill and then immediately watch the corresponding game or practice film.
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