Defending the Air-Raid: LSU looks to avoid getting ‘cute’ trying to defend Leach’s air-raid offense

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Brian Kelly of LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Caesars Superdome on September 04, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Defending the Air-Raid: LSU looks to avoid getting ‘cute’ trying to defend Leach’s air-raid offense

When it comes to defending an air-raid offense, there’s arguably none tougher to defend than that of Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach, who’s been perfecting his offensive scheme for more than three decades and was one of the main architects of the air-raid offense.

Leach played a huge part in the creation and evolution of the popular pass heavy offensive scheme. Ultimately it was Leach and Hal Mumme that created the air-raid concept back in 1989 when Leach was an assistant under Mumme at Iowa Wesleyan.

The story is that Leach and Mumme created the offense based off of another team’s two-minute offense and incorporated a lot of the concepts used in former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards offensive scheme. Leach has since perfected the concept and has become the godfather of one of college football’s most exciting and difficult offenses to try and defend.

The air-raid is often considered a highly technical and at times gimmicky offense, but first year LSU head coach Brian Kelly thinks the biggest challenge is a combination of Mississippi State’s execution in running it and limited preparation time, comparing it to trying to prepare for a team that runs the triple option.

“I think perceptually people think there’s a lot of curveballs, this is dive, QB keep or pitch, “Kelly said metaphorically speaking of defending Mississippi State’s air-raid concepts.

“There’s maybe four, five, six concepts that are ran so well and so efficiently that if you get too cute on defense, that’s where you get exposed,” he added “Or you try to do one thing to take it away, you play too much man, if you play too much three-man rush, if you try to be one dimensional defensively that’s where you get in trouble.”

Don’t expect the Tigers to try and get ‘cute’ defensively as Kelly says, at least that appears to be the game plan for the Tiger defense heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the Bulldogs. Look for LSU defensive coordinator Matt House to try and keep things fundamental, mixing things up when it comes to how the Tigers are lining up defensively with a concentration on making the play and tackling in open space.

“This is really about trying to change up your looks, try to make it to so they don’t see the same thing every time,” Kelly added on scheming the air-raid. “They’re going to run what they run and they just run it better than you can defend it in three days of preparation.”

“I go back to it and I know you’re going to get sick of the option, triple option analogy but it’s so true in that this is the air-raid concept, they run it better than you can defend it in three days. So, you better tackle, you better have a really good plan on some of the things that they really like to do or you’re going to get exposed.”

Mississippi State is averaging 44 points-per-game and 486 yards-per-game in 2022 under Mike Leach. The Bulldogs are 2-0 with two quality wins over Memphis and Arizona. Junior quarterback Will Rogers is completing nearly 80-percent of his passes and has 763 yards passing and nine touchdowns through the Bulldogs’ first two games.

While they don’t have to try and prepare for the triple option, this LSU defense will definitely have their work cut out for them in preparing for one of college football’s most challenging offenses. But can they avoid getting too cute on defense, changing their looks enough in an effort to keep the Bulldogs guessing offensively while playing strong fundamentally sound defense? They better, or Brian Kelly and the Tigers could be staring down the barrel of a 1-2 start to start the season.

Related Posts:

1 Comment

  • I’m a MSState alumni. I’m looking forward to making the start of Brian Kelly’s first season more disappointing to my LSU alum friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *