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Sonny Dykes: New Head Coach Brings Airraid Offense To Cal Football

Sonny Dykes as Cal’s next head coach may have some Cal Alumns scratching their heads, but this Old Blue is very happy with the decision to bring the architect of the nations #1 offense to Berkeley. Coach Dykes is one of the America’s acknowledged intellectual leaders in the development of something called “The Airraid Offense.” Moreover, and in accordance with a view I expressed that one of the mayor criteria for hiring Cal’s next head person should be that they know and can articulate an offensive or defensive system, said here….

…Coach Dykes can certainly do that, as he’s (to repeat) one of the main developers of The Airraid Offense, and I’m sure Coach has done so while being interviewed for the position at Cal. But what is “The Airraid Offense” and how will it be different than what Cal has done before? Read on.

The Airraid Offense Is A Passing Offense That Combines West Coast / BYU with Sid Gilman

The Airraid Offense is a passing offense that was created based on the BYU Offense created by Lavel Edwards, when he was head coach. (In turn, the BYU Offense draws from basic concepts of using receivers to stretch the field that extend back to San Diego Chargers Head Coach Sid Gilman and his assistant Al Davis, later of the Oakland Raiders, in the early 1960s.) The Airraid Offense was modified and refined by Hal Mumme at the University of Kentucky, and there current Washington State Coach Mike Leach was the offensive coordinator, and Dykes was a graduate assistant in charge of tight ends. (It must be noted that Norm Chow, who was also on Edwards BYU staff, and later coached the Tennessee Titans and the UCLA Bruins, played a large roll in shaping the Airraid Offense.)

That offense set then-Southeastern Conference offense records, before Leach went off to join Bob Stoops in Oklahoma, and eventually landed at Texas Tech as head coach, and where Leach’s offense set several national records, and made his name a household word. One of Leach’s assistants at Texas Tech was Sonny Dykes, who coached the wide receivers from 2000 to 2005. Thus Coach Dykes learned the original Airraid concepts, and then helped hone and refine them.

The Airraid Offense is commonly defined by three and four and five wide receiver formations that spread wide receivers from sideline to sideline. The basic set of pass plays place as many as four receivers out, and generally in a flood pattern to one side of the field, right, middle, or left.

Wide receivers commonly run deep or run crossing “mesh” patters, where tight ends and running backs run patterns that complement them, so that in a man-for-man defense, one receiver’s pattern opens up that of another. Thus, the Flanker running a fly pattern will have the Tight End running a short out pattern, and the Halfback on the Tight End side running straight up where the tight end was. So, the order of receivers is Flanker (1), Tight End (2), Halfback (3).

This video shows the basic concepts of the Airraid Offense in action:

One of the basic Airraid schemes is called a “mesh” and this video talks about the concept:

If you’re saying that, overall, the Airraid reads very much like the late Coach Bill Walsh’s Offense, you’re right. Coach Walsh’s timing offense predates The Airraid, and when the Airraid was first promoted, it’s liberal borrowing of approaches introduced in Coach Walsh’s Offense was a real selling point for coaches trying to learn it.

Over his personal evolution, Sonny Dykes has incorporated innovative formations that allow his teams to present a run threat, yet throw effectively. One such formation has the quarterback in a shotgun / pistol set, where there are running backs to both sides of him, and then behind him. Here’s the presentation of that set this year, when Coach Dykes was at Louisiana Tech and against Texas A&M:

And this series of videos gives you an idea of what Sonny Dykes’ version of The Airraid Offense will look like at Cal, starting with the epic Texas A&M v La Tech battle this year. That game was a contest of Airraid Offenses that A&M was lucky to escape from 59 to 57, as Louisiana Tech rolled up 678 yards in total offense:

And just to have a little fun at the end, here’s the 2011-2012 Louisiana Tech Recruiting Video:

Mike Leach v. Sonny Dykes

The Pac-12 now has two of the developers of the most-widely used basic passing attack in Coach Dykes at Cal and Mike Leach at Washington State. Dykes will form a Cal team that’s fast, attacking, unpredictable, and winning. Moreover, the personal view here is that Coach Dykes will install new wrinkles to further differentiate his system from what Coach Leach is doing, and to better use Cal’s players at the same time.

This blogger is very excited that Coach Dykes is coming to Cal Berkeley. Welcome to Berkeley, Coach Dykes!


Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham | Zennie Abraham or "Zennie62" is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham.

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