Football 101: Mesh

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If you are one of the brave souls who listen to our podcast, you will have heard me repeatedly mention Mesh. If you are a casual observer of football, you likely have no idea what i am talking about. So, I decided to shed some light on a play that has spread into the playbook of nearly every college football program in the country.  

First, a brief digression, this is Football 101 after all.  I'm going to mention some routes run by receivers in this column, to prevent cluelessness on the part of you, the reader, I've included a "route tree" below.  This shows the designs of the basic routes run by receivers and their names.

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Mesh is a play call from the famous Air Raid offense created by Hal Mumme and Mike Leach at Valdosta State.  They took Lavell Edwards famous passing game at BYU, which was based off of Sid Gillman's passing offense.  For a deep look into the creation of the Air Raid, I strongly, fervently and constantly recommend Chris Brown's column on the topic. 

Mesh is known for its variations, but the routes by the inside receivers are what it is known for.  In the original "Mesh", the two inside receivers ran crossing routes. The passing play was designed so that the two receivers would cross so close together that they could slap hands(often called the mesh point, hence the name). This in turn would create a pick, like in basketball, on the following defenders.  It was an excellent play to get receivers open against man coverage. Unfortunately, this play would only work if the defense was in man coverage. In zone, the receivers wouldn't have a trailing defender to pick, and they would be running in and out of zones and in and out of passing windows. Leach and Mumme decided to change the play so that it would adjust to what coverage the defense was running.  If the defense was in man coverage, the receivers would run the traditional mesh crossing routes.  If the defense was in zone, the receivers would find the open spot in the zone, stop, and wait for the ball. 

The outside receivers have options built into their routes as well, sometimes they run posts, corners, or fade routes. The primary purpose is to clear out the space on the outside if the defense is in man, as the inside receivers need free space to run to.  

Full disclosure, took the following graphic from Cougcenter, which also wrote quality breakdowns of the Air Raid. 

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Mesh has been around for years, and copied since Leach and Mumme were at Kentucky in the mid 90's. Naturally there have been a variety of changes and adjustments made by coaches.  Leach and his Air Raid disciples still run the traditional mesh all across college football.  If you find yourself watching Washington State late on a Saturday night, keep your eye on the middle of the field, and you will see Mesh over and over and over again.