What does ‘Air Raid’ offense mean if it’s indeed coming to Wisconsin?

The reported hiring of Phil Longo as the University of Wisconsin’s new offensive coordinator represents a dramatic shift in offensive philosophy.

UW, a team for decades defined by its running game, would be shifting to an attack far more reliant on the pass (though not necessarily exclusively) in the “Air Raid” system Longo gleaned in the late 1990s from current Mississippi State coach Mike Leach . According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Longo developed a relationship with new Badgers coach Luke Fickell when Longo interviewed for the Cincinnati offensive coordinator job before taking the job at Ole Miss in late 2016.

So what’s meant by “Air Raid” offense?

First ‘air raid’ dates back to 1980s in Texas

In the traditional sense, the origins of ‘Air Raid’ date back to the 1980s with East Texas high school coach Hal Mumme, who eventually became head coach at Kentucky and passed on his concepts to assistant Mike Leach, today the Mississippi State head coach and the offense’s modern champion.

Although there are some passing concepts that get associated with Air Raid — mesh and four verts, for example — Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press pointed out earlier this year that aspects of it can be, and have been, implemented on a somewhat a la carte basis.

“The Air Raid is more a process than a playbook these days,” Russo wrote. “Keeping things simple, stressing execution over matchups and seemingly endless repetition of a relatively small number of plays in practice are what links the Air Raid’s past and present.”

Head coach Hal Mumme of the Kentucky Wildcats in 1998.

Plays are run out of the shotgun with four receivers on the field, and quarterbacks often have the freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage based on what the defense is showing. Teams often go no-huddle to keep defenses from substituting personnel.

With offensive linemen spread out at the line of scrimmage, it’s incumbent that the quarterback get the ball out quickly (or decide to run) to offset blitzers that might try to take advantage of the wider openings up front. So, despite the name, it doesn’t mean quarterbacks will be throwing deep passes regularly, but they’ll need to throw the ball to all parts of the field.

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