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DSC 5038By Kyle Richardson, Head Coach, Northwestern (SC)

Is the stick concept the most versatile passing concept in the game today? Coach Richardson will tell you why he thinks it is and it isn't even close...



By Kyle Richardson
Head Coach/Quarterbacks Coach
Northwestern High School (SC)
Twitter: @NHSTrojansFB


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DSC 5038The Air Raid Stick Concept is one of the most versatile passing concepts in use. Not only does this concept work in a variety of down and distance situations, but it also can work against almost any coverage. For us, the real advantage of the stick concept comes through the way we teach the pre-snap and post-snap read ensuring that it is the same every time. We want to make sure that the reads are simple regardless of the formation we are in or motion we use.


Stick Route Breakdown

  • Outside WR – Hitch Route: Five-yard hitch. He must be prepared for an outside shoulder throw. Upon catching the ball, the receiver should use momentum of ball placement to take you into your next step up field.
  • Slot WR - Skinny Slant Route: This route can be hot if a defender is blitzing. If the hot blitz is not detected, the receiver will run inside slant route, which we call skinny slant, and work up field vertically once he is underneath the slot defender.
  • Slot WR – Stick Route: We run our stick routes at 4 yards and the receiver has the option to work inside or outside on the stick based off of defender leverage. The receiver must be prepared for quick throw that will be thrown to the shoulder away from the slot defender. Once completed, the receiver’s first step must be north or down field very quickly to avoid oncoming defenders from inside the box.
  • Outside WR – Go Route: We like our receivers to take an outside release if possible and push vertically with speed. Once they are past the defender, their eyes should be on the quarterback and they must be prepared for a hole shot throw away from the safety.
  • Running Back – Shoot Route: The shoot route is aimed at the back foot of the outside receiver’s pre snap alignment. The shoot route should be a straight line with no drifting up field or backwards. On the 3rd step, the back’s eyes should be on quarterback prepared for a throw. Once completed, he needs to quickly turn up field and run. He must let the momentum of the ball carry you up field.

While some people may make adjustments against certain looks, we have found that it works better for us to keep it the same. We believe that there is no reason to change or convert the routes because this play is great against any coverage. The only change that we ever use is the occasional l double move against 0 man coverage. That said, when we do that the post snap read turns into only one route read which is the double move stick. This is only run if we are taking a shot


We like to run our stick concept out of 2x2, 3x1, 2 Back and 0 Back (Diagrams 7 and 8).


Since the pre-snap and post-snap read to be almost identical regardless of the formation or motion, we can really use any set we want. This allows us to teach one concept to our quarterbacks, but be very multiple in attacking the defense. As you can see in the diagrams below, the routes are similar regardless of formation.






What You’re Missing…

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  • Why Coach Richardson teaches the backside of the route as the pre-snap read for the quarterback.
  • The hot route Coach Richardson builds into the concept against front side pressure.
  • The man beater concepts Coach Richardson uses on the backside of the Stick.
  • Why he teaches the quarterback’s post-snap read progression to move from the Cornerback to slot defender.
  • VIDEO: Watch game film on these concepts.

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In the end, this play in all of its looks can be very difficult to defend consistently. We run the basic stick concept and read/throw the ball quick to give us an advantage over the defense each time we run it. By having the same read for the quarterback regardless of the formation or motions allows us to give defenses various looks without changing our thinking and execution offensively.

Meet Coach Richardson: Kyle Richardson has been running the Air Raid system for over 10 years in college and high school. He has been at Northwestern for the last 8 years (since 2007) running this system. Northwestern has won 2 State Championships, 5 State Championship appearances, 7 Region Championships, and multiple state and national offensive records since implementing Air Raid at Northwestern in 2007.




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