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TALK ABOUT the road less traveled. As an undergraduate at BYU in the early 1980s Mike Leach (above) played rugby, not football. He ventured into coaching only after earning his law degree at Pepperdine. "I was broke, so I went the route taken by so many people just out of school," Leach says. "I got another degree." In addition to being the coach of a club team in Finland, his early jobs were assistant positions at then Division II Cal Poly, a juco called College of the Desert and the NAIA's Iowa Wesleyan. Among the programs that have influenced him: the prodigious passing attack of BYU (" Jim McMahon may be my alltime favorite quarterback," Leach says) and the wishbone as it was run by Air Force ("I like the way they get the ball to every skill position").
Since Leach brought his spread attack to Texas Tech in 2000, the Red Raiders have led the nation in passing five times and broken 190 NCAA, Big 12 and school records. As a junior last season Graham Harrell led the country in passing yards with 5,705, completed 71.8% of his attempts and threw for 48 TDs.
Asked to diagram a typical play, Leach selected Double Slot Rip Y-Cross, a four-receiver, one-back set, and broke down Harrell's progressions (numbered 1 through 5, right). Last year Tech ran this play 56 times out of various formations, completing it 36 times and averaging 14.8 yards per catch.
4 SAY THE Will goes to H, and the Mike flies out to the side where Y is running—although that would require a great deal of anticipation right at the snap—and the strong safety comes down to help cover Y. Then we'd look to Z [wide receiver], who's going to take an inside release against the corner, push it to 10 yards, stick his toe in the ground, sell the post for five yards, stick his toe in the ground again. He can settle at the top of the post, but he wants to settle in the first hole he comes to or, if it's man coverage, keep running. If Y is covered, there's a natural hole there.
5 EVEN THOUGH this would be ridiculously hard for a defense to do, if the Sam flies underneath the Z and the corner's taking away the outside, there's nobody to cover F [running back], so the quarterback goes to him. F is also a safety valve. Sometimes the quarterback doesn't have time to go through all five reads. He may be on his second read, the guard gets beat, and he has to move out of the pocket. If the QB gets in trouble, he knows F's in the flat.
2 Y [SLOT RECEIVER] wants to run under the Sam [strongside linebacker] and over the Mike [middle linebacker] and sit in the first hole he comes to. If the defense is in man coverage, Y wants to keep running. If Y gets to the sideline, he wants to be 18 to 22 yards deep.
3 NOW THAT the free safety is covering X, if the Will [weakside linebacker] and the Mike go deep with Y, then there's nobody to cover H [slot receiver], who's running what we call a shoot route. Then the ball should go to H.
1 X [WIDEOUT] is going to outside release; the corner's going to run with him. If the free safety stays on the hash mark, the quarterback wants to put the ball on the outside shoulder of X. If the free safety comes off the hash to cover X, which is likely, then the quarterback's eyes go to Y.