Washington State Cougars coach Mike Leach is known around the college football world as an offensive innovator, a reputation built on being the foremost proponent of the Air Raid. But the reality is that he doesn’t do a lot of tricky things — to some extent, everyone knows what he’s going to do. He’s fairly old school in his belief that his players are just going to execute so well, there’s no need for trickery.
Which is why this moment in Saturday’s 41-19 win over the Wyoming Cowboys was pretty eye popping.
By the way — here’s that bananas formation WSU ran for a couple of plays. Mike Leach is at it again ... pic.twitter.com/qz4C48epEY— CougCenter (@CougCenter) September 1, 2018
Yes, that’s wide receiver Kyle Sweet lining up as the center. And if you’re wondering how the formation is legal, the only requirement (more or less) is that seven players be on the line of scrimmage. WSU has that, with Sweet, the five linemen, and Tay Martin at the top of the screen.
Wyoming wasn’t really fooled either time — in fact, the only player who looked confused was erstwhile center Fred Mauigoa, who blocked nobody the second time — but both runs were productive, gaining a total of nine yards. And, to be honest, it appears there were more yards to be had if it was blocked a little better.
It’s interesting that WSU ran it to the short side of the field; that suggests to me that the idea is to snap it to quarterback Gardner Minshew at some point and throw off of it to the wide side of the field.
Why do this? Well ... it’s just another thing opponents have to prepare for, right? And honestly, it’s not that tricky — the line still blocks it as an inside zone, the receivers still block corners and/or run a route. Varying formations is the biggest way Leach changes his plays, and while this is an extreme version, it’s definitely within his M.O.