Last season we began compiling some of the basic plays in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. We'll continue that now with a major component of the offense that isn't quite as Air Raid specific as what we've covered before -- the wide receiver screen.
At its best, a wide receiver screen will leave the ball carrier one-on-one with just a safety -- who is more than five yards off the ball -- to beat for daylight. At its worst, a corner or outside linebacker blows the whole thing up in your face. (Think Damante Horton on Marquise Lee at USC last season.) They're usually reliable for some small chunk yardage, and always hold the better than good possibility of busting loose for something major at least once during a game. (Think Dom Williams on the winning drive against USC.)
Short passes -- these screens in particular -- are said to be a "run game substitute" in the Air Raid because, in essence, they attack boundary defenders the same way a toss sweep would. As such, WSU puts in work at practice, to the tune of about 70 reps daily, in a WR blocking drill called "Block It Up."
The drill pits three wide receivers against two defensive backs, with one of the receivers catching the screen and the other two working man-to-man blocking. The quarterback running the drill decides which receiver gets the ball, signalling to the three*. The technique for man-blocking as a wide receiver is simple: Get your hands inside and drive your feet. Whichever way the DB wants to go, let him, and drive him out of position that direction. This helps avoid the holding calls that'll happen when a back gains position and the receiver fights to turn him.
It's the ball carrier's responsibility to read the blocks and make them right.
That's a common refrain you'll hear from the coaching staff on everything from a middle iso run, to a special teams return: "Make the blockers right."
*They use the same calls and hand signals they'll be using during the game that week, which will change often throughout the season to keep a defense from being able to pick signs during a game ... something Halliday teasingly accused Daquawn Brown of doing in practice.
Randy and Larry
Simply, "Randy" is a screen to the right and "Larry" is a screen to the left. They can be run out of either a two- or three-receiver look. With three receivers, the play basically becomes the WR blocking drill shown above. When run in a two-receiver set, the blocking scheme changes just a bit.