AJ Smith, for those who weren’t familiar before now, has been a very intuitive student of the game of football. Most notably the Run-and-Shoot, and Hal Mumme’s Air Raid systems. Smith coached under June Jones with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL, and then took what he had learned from Mumme to the high school level, setting several offensive records.
With stops at UCLA, Southwestern, SMU, Jackson State, and on to the Roughnecks, the passing game was never an awkward part of the offense. In a recent interview with the Air Raid architect himself – Hal Mumme – much praise was given to AJ:
“It was really the brainchild of my partner, AJ Smith – Smith worked with Stoops and Mumme in Dallas – we was Jerry Glanville’s offensive coordinator in The Spring League, but he’s work with me also. But, he came to me and said,’why don’t we turn this into a business model, and make it a certification. Now we have over 600 in over a year.”Hal Mumme
I asked AJ to elaborate on that statement:
“I first met Hal at SMU when I went in there as a 20-something-year-old coach, and he hired me again in 2018 at Jacskon State, so I just started to study everything about the Air Raid. I was brought up in the Run and Shoot, and I had so much information wrong, I’d study it on the web, and then go to Hal, and what he was telling me was completely different. There’s gotta be a way where Hal teaches a course on it. We just came up with the certification. Guys sell systems, and you kinda get a bunch of ideas, but we were gonna quiz guys, so if you wanna say you know Air Raid you’re gonna have to pass these tests. It just gave solid info out there, where if you wanna learn it, you wanna learn it from the godfather.”AJ Smith
The ideas behind both the Run and Shoot and the Air Raid systems are very similar; pass to set up the run. But how they do it is slightly different. The Air Raid likes to get their playmakers into space, while the Run and Shoot tend to go downfield more often.
You can see that if you watch any of the games where Smith was on the sidelines. In particular this The Spring League season with the Conquerors. With AJ controlling the game, QBs Kevin Anderson and Brandon Silvers were throwing more balls downfield than any other team in the league.
They ended up with more 2nd half points (112), the leading receiver (Michael Bandy), and their RB Sola Olateju had more yards per carry than any other back in the game. Why? Well, I’ll let Sola answer that:
“In the style of offense we run, you always have to watch out for me. If you get lost watching for the pass, I’ll run right by you.”Sola Olateju
That he did. He finished with more carries over 30 yards than any other back in the game.
Bandy and TE Matt Seybert were among a bunch of guys signed to the NFL and CFL from this team. And AJ will be on the shortlists of any league looking to add to their coaching staffs, whether it’s this fall, or for the upcoming USFL, of 2023 XFL.
While Smith is open to wherever football takes him, he does have a high interest in the USFL, when asked about how he felt his chances were to be hired there, he had this to say – he also said he is not a source on it, nothing has been formally announced about how the league plans to structure their teams:
“If there’s going to be 8 ownerships in the USFL, they’re going to wanna hire their own coaches, and who knows who they’re going to be? Some of these guys could be owners themselves.”AJ Smith
No doubt we will be seeing more of AJ calling plays on the sidelines somewhere soon.
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