Monday, October 22, 2012

A Case for Bringing the Air Raid to Chestnut Hill

BC will be looking for a new head coach in the coming months and so this is the perfect opportunity for a discussion on what type of offensive scheme the Eagles should run.  Brad Bates will be looking for someone with an excellent track record of success, someone with a personality that will mesh with Boston College, and hopefully for someone who has a style of offense that will make the students excited to turn out for home games.  At least two of the candidates who would seem to be good fits for the Eagles (head coach power rankings to come later) are experts in the air raid offense.  The air raid is both difficult to defend and exciting to watch.  I think it also fits our current personnel extremely well.


In terms of personnel, our offense is well-equipped to implement the air raid.  We clearly have the most important piece, the quarterback.  Chase Rettig is both smart and accurate with the football.  The air raid depends on the quarterback's ability to read defenses and react accordingly.  Analysts of Mike Leach's Texas Tech offense claim that up to 90% of all plays were changed at the line of scrimmage by the quarterback.  Rettig has the smarts to read the defense and call a new play accordingly.  Rettig is also very accurate with the football, which is essential when running an offense that depends on timing.  I feel similarly about Suntrup, who will likely take over from Rettig after next year.  Between Rettig and Suntrup I feel good about our quarterback play over the next three years.

Similarly, our wide receivers are excellently suited to the air raid.  Instead of depending on one or two "elite" receivers, our offense works best when we have a variety of guys catching balls.  The staple of the air raid, a four wide receiver set, would allow us to utilize our depth at the position (this year we could have had Swigert, Evans, Larmond, and Amidon on the field at the same time).  Furthermore, practicing the air raid would almost certainly eliminate dropped passes.  Reporters who have watched Mike Leach's teams practice have marveled at the sheer number of footballs thrown and caught at each practice.  When this practice adds up over time, it makes our receivers better at catching the ball.  Several reporters have hypothesized that focusing on the passing game day after day gives younger receivers a developmental advantage over time when compared to their peers at schools which emphasize the run. 

The air raid offense will fundamentally change our offensive line schemes by spreading out the offensive linemen.  BC currently places its linemen about one foot apart.  The air raid offense can spread offensive linemen up to two yards apart.  In doing so, the air raid sacrifices the ability to pull linemen and blocking in the second level for the ability to more easily read blitzes and increase pass protection.  The air raid spacing also dramatically decreases the effectiveness of edge rushers because it takes the defensive linemen an extra 1.5 seconds to run around the outside of the tackles.  This is a huge advantage to an offense which depends on quick, timed passes.  Furthermore, wider spacing will make stunts and twists more obvious to the line.  Our current line has struggled this year, and the air raid would make their duties significantly simpler.  There's little hope that any coach can cover up guys who can't block, but this scheme would make things a lot easier for the guys in the trenches because they wouldn't be asked to do as much.

The running game would definitely take a hit with the air raid, which passes about 75% of the time.  This doesn't mean our backs wouldn't have any opportunities.  First, RB is probably our thinnest offensive position on the current roster.  It's a nice coincidence that the air raid assigns the least amount of responsibility to our thinnest position.  Second, the air raid's offensive line scheme spreads out the defense at the cost of less help from the linemen.  It's no secret that our line hasn't been much help to the RBs this year, so maybe developing a scheme that uses them to spread out the defense will help create more one-on-one match-ups between the RBs and the LBs.  Break one tackle and you're gone.  Again, we're not going to utilize the backs as much here, but they might be more effective when we do utilize them.

Many fans will argue that it doesn't matter how we win, as long as we win.  Winning builds a fanbase way quicker than any offensive scheme.  This is definitely true to an extent.  It was nearly impossible to get a full season student ticket package in 2006-07 to see one of Al Skinner's best teams.  The offense wasn't exciting, but winning was.  At the same, there's no question that Donahue's style of shooting three after three is more exciting to watch, and yet there are plenty of tickets available.  However, I think that most would agree that a Donahue-style offense with the same record as a Skinner-style offense will draw more students.  There really aren't any numbers to either back up this claim or disprove it but I strongly believe it's true. 

Give us the air raid.

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