Education New Content Offense

Offense: The Evolution of the Air Raid Offense into the Power Raid

This article describes the beginnings of how the Air Raid was used to develop into another offense called the "Power Raid". The Power Raid is now used by top offensive teams such as Oklahoma, North Texas, UNC, SMU, and Houston.

Written by: Garrett Wingate

About: Coach Wingate for the last 3 years has been an Asst. Coach at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C and is currently a Ed.D. candidate at UNCG in Kinesiology. He also served in various roles at North Pitt High School since 2014, with the last role being Head Coach. Before coaching in high school, he interned for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and worked for the East Carolina Football Team under Skip Holtz and Ruffin McNeil from 2007-2013.


Phone: 252-902-9588

Twitter: @GarrettWingate

Hi, my name is Garret Wingate, and I am an addict.  I am addicted to football offensives and researching their origins and philosophical structure.  There is nothing like watching an offense move in synchrony, executing assignments, and moving as though they all have a rope tying them together.  I love offense and everything about it.  Watching how methodical coaches have to be, mixed in with a touch of OCD, and pressing the borderline of genius or insanity, makes watching the game of football even more enticing.  

Every offense has its followers, and in my coaching career, I have coached the Wishbone, Power-I, Flexbone, and the Air Raid.  All of these offenses are different, but two offenses are just alike in theory.  My two favorites: the Wishbone and the Air Raid. They both have the same ideological approach to offense: become a balanced offense by getting the ball to as many people as possible who can score. {Sidenote: A balanced offense is not 50 percent run and 50 percent pass.  A balanced offense is where you have 6 or 7 players who all have close to the same amount of touches.  How can an offense be balanced if its 50% run and 50% pass when the feature back touches the ball 50% of the time, and then only two wide receivers touch the ball the other 50% of the time?  That’s not a balanced offense in my humble opinion.}  Now, how they go about doing it is 100 percent polar opposite.  However, I have a love affair for one offense, and I can clearly say that I am an addict, and every time I see it, it produces a high like no other: The Air Raid.  

I remember watching Michael Crabtree catch the ball against Texas in 2008 when they beat then #1 ranked Texas on a last-second play.  At that point, I was working for the East Carolina football team, and we had just gotten to Orlando and settled in the hotel.  We were there to play UCF in a huge C-USA divisional game.  When that play happened, the hotel erupted from all the players going crazy about the catch, and everyone flooded into the hallways after curfew. The next day, we beat UCF in a great game 13-10 and would go on to win the conference championship for the first time since 1976.   

In 2008, I didn’t know or understand the Air Raid.  I was working on the defensive side of the ball as the defensive script guy for then Defensive Coordinator Greg Hudson.  All I knew about the Air Raid is that every week we played an Air Raid team, the coaches would get on edge, and it was hectic getting the play calls in on defense.  Teams like Houston (then OC Dana Holgerson) would get me all bewildered because they were going so fast, playing faster than I could write, and frustrating every coach on the defensive side.  Coach Hudson hated the offensive style and called it “backyard football with no rhyme or reason,” naturally, I accepted the same philosophy. Little did I know that what caused one of my biggest headaches would become what I fell the most in love with in the future.  In 2008 I knew who Mike Leach and Dana Holgerson were, but I didn’t know the names of coaches like Lincoln Riley, Art Briles, Hal Mumme, Sonny Dykes, or even East Carolina graduate Ruffin McNeill other than the fact they were coaches.  I didn’t realize that they would form my coaching philosophy from top to bottom and change how I viewed the game of football and life.   

At the end of the 2009 season, after our back to back conference championships, Greg Hudson our Defensive Coordinator, (who I looked up to immensely and still do) accepted a job offer from Florida State.  I still remember when I heard the news.  It was in December, and we were practicing for the Liberty Bowl to take on Arkansas.  Coach Hudson looked my way during one of our team periods.  In between calls, he looked at me and asked, “Hey, can you keep a secret?”  I replied, “Yes Sir,” terrified to a sense to tell him anything else but yes.  He is one of those coaches who you absolutely love but fear immensely.  Not because you were afraid of his actions but because you never wanted to let him down.  He continued, “I won’t be here next year.  I’m going to Florida State.”  That was one of the first times I experienced heartbreak so to say.  Still young and naive to the way the coaching world works.  I just remember the sinking gut feeling and being 100% ecstatic for him, but 100% deflated for me.  And then two weeks later, Skip Holtz was headed to USF.  

There we were in 2010, starting my senior year working with the team, after winning back to back conference championships, being ranked in the top 25, and now, coachless.  Entrance stage right: Ruffin McNeill and some young Offensive Coordinator named Lincoln Riley who was only five years older than me.  That’s where the fascination of the Air Raid began.  Everything changed.  The pace of practice, the way we practiced, team chemistry, and now we had a family atmosphere.  Let me say that there was nothing wrong with the way Skip Holtz ran the program when he was at East Carolina.  Coach Holtz is one of the best CEO’s I’ve ever seen in football.  He ran it like a business and it was all business, all the time.  But Ruff was just different.  He was always hugging players, genuinely cared about people and I mean everyone in the program, from the players to the groundskeepers.  He taught me some of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned in the game of football.  I just didn’t learn the Air Raid from that staff, but I learned how to treat players and people.  Coach Ruff developed my coaching philosophy that I still use to this day.  Oh and a nickname I still can’t shake, “Coon.”  That’s another story. 

That’s where the Air Raid took hold in my life.    

Brief History of the Air Raid: 

I am going with the assumption that most everyone reading this knows that the Air Raid is, but just in case you don’t here is a quote from Hal Mumme that summarizes the offense: “Throw short as many times as possible to people who can score as many times as possible.”  The Air Raid offense has become a staple in modern football from the high school ranks to the NFL incorporating Air Raid principles into their playbooks.  The Air Raid gained recognition when Hal Mumme became the Head Coach at the University of Kentucky with Mike Leach as his OC.  However in Kentucky, the Air Raid was not what we think of today.  Hal Mumme still had the QB under center and splitbacks in the backfield.  The original Air Raid was basically taking the West Coast passing game, simplifying it to a purely conceptual level, and then making every formational and personnel decision around maximizing those passing concepts.  Hal Mumme and Mike Leach learned the Air Raid concepts from Lavell Edwards at BYU and modernized the offense.  Mike Leach would then go on to be the head coach at Texas Tech and create the constitutionalized offense we now know today as The Air Raid.  Ever since then, the Air Raid has developed as the coaching staff from Texas Tech would get head coaching jobs and expand the Hal Mumme coaching tree.  Each coach has put his own spin on the offense.  Mike leach put the QB in the shotgun and created wide OL splits, Dana Holgerson would run 618 with RPO’s to perfection and didn’t run 92 mesh, Lincoln Riley would use a true TE and run the ball more, and Sonny Dykes ran the ball using power concepts.  The true Air Raid still exists with Mike Leach, but now we are entering a time where the Air Raid is evolving, i.e. The Power Raid.

The Power Raid Offense: 

The Power Raid offense combines the best of the smash mouth, downhill, power run game, with the finesse of the Air Raid passing game.  Essentially Mike Leach’s passing game married with Gus Malzhans’ power run game.  This offense is producing record-breaking numbers in college football. At the time of the writing, North Texas has the #2 offense in the nation for total yards. Coach Riley started at East Carolina in 2010 as the Offensive Coordinator.  The only game under his belt as an OC was the 2010 Alamo Bowl after Mike Leach got fired.  Texas Tech would win the game, Ruffin McNeill would get the job at East Carolina and Riley was his first hire.  Riley started out in 2010 running the pure Air Raid he had learned from Mike Leach.  

In 2010, ECU would finish the season 6-7 and 2011 didn’t get any better.  ECU would lose 4 out of the first 5 games and then finish the season 5-7. He had to innovate and think of new ways to create “green grass” and find ways to move the ball.  

Here is the main problem with the traditional Air Raid in my opinion: If you are not completing passes, the run game is non-effective. The traditional Air Raid has about 4 runs max in the offense and the splits are already wide as can be. Two of the runs are zone plays and the others are based on the pass being effective. What happens when a team isn’t completing passes? They try to run the ball. What was discovered over time is the Linebackers can easily read the run where there are no pulling guards or tackles. Incorporating pulling OL into the offense would cause the LB’s to freeze or flow to the direction of the pulling OL. This would create more “green grass” and open up the possibility for more RPO’s and deception.

Comparing the Air Raid to the Power Raid through stats:

Mike Leach Offensive stats at Washington State:

YearTeamPassesPassing YardsRunsRun YardsPass/Run %Total YardsAvg. Plays Per GameOffense National Ranking
Washington State offensive stats while Leach was the Offensive Coordinator

Lincoln Riley Offensive stats at East Carolina:

YearTeamPassesPassing YardsRunsRun YardsPass/Run %Total YardsAvg. Plays Per GameOffense National Ranking
East Carolina offensive stats while Riley was the Offensive Coordinator

Lincoln Riley Offensive stats at Oklahoma:

YearTeamPassesPassing YardsRunsRun YardsPass/Run %Total YardsAvg. Plays Per GameOffense National Ranking
Oklahoma offensive stats while Riley was the Offensive Coordinator

Sonny Dykes Offensive stats at SMU:

YearTeamPassesPassing YardsRunsRun YardsPass/Run %Total YardsAvg. Plays Per GameOffense National Ranking
Sonny Dykes Offensive stats at SMU in 2019

Breaking Down Oklahoma’s 2018 #1 Offense:

Oklahoma used 5 run concepts in the offense.

ConceptAttemptsYards (avg)TD %
Inside Zone 134702 (5.2)9 (6.7)
Counter2141736 (8.1)20 (9.3)
Midzone55369 (6.7)3 (5.5)
Draw47526 (11.2)3 (6.4)
Constraint Runs39312 (8)4 (10.3)
2018 Oklahoma Runs

Passing Game:

CategoryAttemptsCompletions (%)Yards (Avg.)TDsINT
Hard Play-Action3519/30 (63%)437 (12.5)70
Boots4730/40 (75%)555 (11.8)61
Play-Action Passes14491/121 (75%)2227 (16.5)142
Drop-Back Passes10060/88 (68%)190 (10.1)94
Screen Game1916/19 (84%)159 (8.4)10
2018 Oklahoma Passes

Stats Review:

So what can we learn from the statistics?

The offense started evolving over time. Sonny Dykes was one of the first to start incorporating the power run game with Air Raid passing principles at Cal. Lincoln Riley is one of the few who are now doing the same. Riley is just doing it at a different level with different QB’s every year. Either he is the new QB whisperer or his system is working and can be changed depending on the strengths of the athletes.

Passing: It is clear to see that Mike Leach passes the ball more than a Lincoln Riley offense will. Washington State averaged throwing the ball 72% of the time, while the average for a Lincoln Riley team is about 50%.

Rushes: Riley teams from the start have rushed more than a Leach team will. Note- Leach has stated that he would run the ball more if he had the right personnel at WSU. At OU Riley is for sure running the ball more than passing it. 2018 he had the number 1 offense in the nation with a 44%-56%, pass/run ratio.

Tempo: Most coaches think that if you run the ball more, the less plays you will have on offense. As we can tell from the ECU years, Riley had about the same number of plays and had almost double the rushing yards. However at OU the average plays per game had reduced by about 6 per game. Not a huge difference. SMU is the same.

Touches: Leach, Riley, and Dykes all have 5-6 players that are all relatively close to the amount of touches in the offense. Naturally in Leach’s offense, the RB will touch the ball the most and in Riley’s offense, the QB will touch the ball the most in terms of running the ball.

Future Trends: It will be interesting to watch other teams that run a version of the Power Raid in the future. Listed below are the coaches that descended from the Hal Mumme/ Mike Leach tree who have incorporated power principles into the Air Raid.

  1. Oklahoma- Lincoln Riley
  2. SMU- Sonny Dykes and Garrett Riley (OC)
  3. Houston- Dana Holgerson
  4. North Texas- Seth Littrell and Graham Harrell (OC)
  5. North Carolina- Phil Lagano (OC). Lagano isn’t a Leach disciple, but he did learn the offense from Leach. Lagano’s offense has 100% descended from the Air Raid.

*Note- As of this writing 4 of the 5 schools mentioned are in the top 15 in Total Yards of Offense in the NCAA.

The merging to the Power Raid from the Air Raid and Power offenses.

Traditional Air Raid Staples

Personnel: 00, 10, 20

Formations: 4 WR Shotgun, 2RB Gun, No TE, No Sniffer, No Wing Back

Quick Game Passes: 6, 617/619, 618, 8, 66

Deep Passes: 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98

Screens: Larry/Randy, Lisa/Rita, F-5 (shovel), Fox

Runs: IZ Zone, OZ Zone, Draw (Zone Blocking)

RPO’s: None

Play Action: None

Other Differences: Wide OL Splits, throw the ball 85-90% of the time

Bottom Line: Great pass game, basic run game. Can be a very simple and repetitive offense.

New “Power Raid

Personnel: 00, 10, 11, 20, 21

Formations: Shotgun, 3-4 WR, 1-2 RB, 1 Sniffer, 1 Wing Back, 1 TE who will play TE and line up in the backfield

Quick Game Passes: 6, 617/619, 618, 8, 66

Deep Pass: 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 98

Screens: Multiple screens and jailbreaks

Runs: Power, Counter, IZ Zone, Midzone, Jet Sweep, Buck Sweep

RPO’s: Any Run can be combined with any Quick Pass

Play Action: Right in the Middle

Other Differences: OL splits are about 2 feet. More balance between run and pass, but it can lean one way or the other based on the game plan.

Bottom Line: Great pass game and great run game. Can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You can be as creative as you want to be.

Traditional Power Offense Staples

Personnel: 12, 13, 21, 22, 23

Formations: Under center, 2-3 Runningbacks, 1-2 Tightends, FullBacks, Wing Players, 1-2 WR

Quick Game Passes: Slants, Outs

Deep Pass: Fades, Posts, Double Move

Screens: Delays or Middle Screens

Runs: Iso, Trap, Power, Counter, Sweep (Gap and Man Scheme Blocking)

RPO’s: Pop Pass

Play Action: Bread and Butter

Other Differences: OL splits are foot to foot. Run the ball 90 percent of the time.

Bottom Line: Boring pass game, great run game, passes are mostly play action. The offense can become extremely complex in terminology and movements.

So why run the Power Raid:

  1. QB Friendly– The Power Raid is 100% QB friendly. The complexity or simplicity of the offense will depend on your QB. If they are smart and can process alot, then the playbook opens up even further without installing new plays. For example, the RPO game. WR’s run the pass route, OL and RB executes the run, and the QB makes the decision. Also the QB can check the offense on the line based off of the defense. However if you have a QB who cant process as well and is more athletic, the offense can be fit and molded to his strengths.
  2. Its not 1 dimensional: Stated previously, if the pass isnt working in the Air raid the run game isn’t going to bail you out. In the Power Raid the run game can save your life and open the pass back up.
  3. Hard to defend: This offense allows you to be creative. You can line up one way, and do something completely different. The offense is designed to make the most use of your best athletes. Once the players know the concepts, they can line up anywhere on the field and run the play from a different position. Defenses cant get too wild on pressure and alignment. If they do the offense allows you hit them where they arent.


Everything evolves over time. At one point the forward pass in football was illegal. As offensives have evolved so have the philosophies behind them. When you look at the traditional Air Raid vs. the new Power Raid, it’s safe to say that is its the marriage of two popular offenses. In summary, the new Power Raid can be as complex as you want it to be or as simple. The Air Raid is great because of simplicity but if your players and QB can handle more, the Power Raid might be worth looking into more.

The next article will focus on specific formations and plays from the Power Raid system and how to incorporate it into a high school offense.

3 comments on “Offense: The Evolution of the Air Raid Offense into the Power Raid

  1. Kyle Chase

    Awesome Article! Totally love “Power Raid” for the reasons noted


  2. This is such an awesome write up. I appreciate the detail you use in the specific run plays and routes. Thank you for this.


  3. Pingback: Installing the Power Raid Offense

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: