The 'Air Raid' is returning to its Kentucky roots.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has his own nuances to 'Air Raid' offense
The offense attack that in some ways revolutionized the way the passing game was utilized in college football when Hal Mumme was plucked from coaching obscurity and dropped into the Southeastern Conference has finally come full circle. Neal Brown, one of the early students of Mumme's 'Air Raid' attack will once again be a part of flinging footballs into the Lexington sky, this time as the Wildcats' offensive coordinator.
The former UK walk-on from Danville, Ky. has been hailed in UK circles as a brilliant hire by new head coach Mark Stoops, as much because of the high-flying offense he favors as his roots to the area. As a disciple of the offense that regular short-circuits scoreboards Brown was Stoops' top target from the beginning.
“I really liked the style that Neal ran at Texas Tech,” Stoops said. “I know the problems that he presented for defenses. My brother has had to defend him. So, just very familiar with Neal and that whole system, going back to Mike Leach and our connection with Mike Leach and of course all the way back to Hal Mumme with that whole family of coaches. That whole group was something I was very interested in. With Neal, with his connections to Kentucky, it was a great fit for us.”
Brown first learned the 'Air Raid' offense while under the tutelage of Mumme, Mike Leach and Tony Franklin, who later gave him an opportunity as Troy University's offensive coordinator. The success Brown had with the Trojans helped him land at Texas Tech, which had thrived under Leach and his variation of the offense.
In his three seasons as the Red Raiders' offensive coordinator, Brown's attack piled up 1,289 total points and 17,647 total yards. By comparison, Kentucky's offense managed just 811 total points and 12,459 yards over that same span. But what really stands out is the simplicity of what the 'Air Raid' brings on Saturdays.
“It's a really simple system,” Brown said. “The first three days of spring practice we'll install the whole system.
“The base plays that you're going to see on Saturday afternoons, when Coach Mumme was here, those base plays are the same. Those base plays are really the same that you're seeing at West Virginia be highly successful. They're the same plays we used at Texas Tech. Oklahoma State's using those same plays. Oklahoma's using those same plays. Those same base plays really haven't changed since 1997 when Coach Mumme brought those to really big-time college football.”
Like sampling music, Brown has taken Mumme's base offense and put his own spin on it. The result has been a bit more commitment to the running game while still throwing the ball all over the lot.
Now what we've done is, is we've made a stronger – I guess we've made a more concerted effort to run the football is the best way to put that,” Brown said. “We're playing at a faster pace, and we dress those plays up with motions, with different formations. Those are the things that the fans are going to notice.”
In a league as defensively stout as the SEC the ability to confuse the defense is critical to the success of programs like Kentucky that don't have the sheer volume of athletes some of the upper tier programs possess.
“I think just being able to dress things up here and there, being creative in how you run the ball, being creative how you distribute the ball,” Stoops said. “You've got to be obviously very well-balanced, but you've got to be creative to move the ball. I know from being a defensive coordinator for all those years, somebody that just wants to line up and run the same plays and not be creative in how they motion, shift…that's what I mean by being creative and dressing it up, finding some ways to move the ball.”
For now, Brown is focusing on getting the players he inherited on board while also attempting to upgrade for the future by having them watch a video produced by Texas Tech that details the nuances of the offense.
“It's one thing to talk about and tell people, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do', and listen to it vocally and show it to them on the board and all that kind of stuff,” Brown said. “'But when they see it with their eyes and here, 'Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown' a lot then they can feel the excitement in it.”
If that's the case, Kentucky may very well bring the 'Air Raid' siren back into working order at Commonwealth Stadium.