ITP Glossary: Y-Cross Concept

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.


The Y-Cross concept is a staple of the Air Raid offenses, dating back to the days of LaVell Edwards at BYU and refined over the years by coaches such as Washington State’s head coach Mike Leach. This concept involves a deep route or routes to occupy the safeties, and a crossing or over route from either a tight end or a slot receiver. The QB takes a quick look first at the deep route to see if a big play can be made, then works to the primary route, which is the crossing route. While the play has its roots in Air Raid systems, it is incorporated into many pro-style offenses. Florida State, under Jimbo Fisher, uses this design as well. As Coach Fisher described it at a 2015 coaches’ clinic, the play is effective against Cover 2, 3 and 4, as well as man coverages. 

Here is a page from Leach’s 1999 Oklahoma playbook illustrating the concept and the progression reads for the QB:LeachCross

While this uses the tight end on the crossing route, Leach and the Cougars generally run this out of slot formations with the inside receiver running the over route. But the concepts remain the same. Here, Washington State faces a 2nd and 10 on their own 25-yard line against Oregon. They line up with Luke Falk in the shotgun with 20 offensive personnel on the field, using slot formation on the right and a single receiver split outside on the left. Oregon has their base 3-4 defense in the game, and they show Cover 2 before the snap.

The Cougars run their cross design on this play:CFBPreview10WSUPlay5Still1

River Cracraft is the slot receiver on the right and he is tasked with running the crossing route. Notice on the playbook image there is a notation for the Y receiver to settle in the first zone after the Mike linebacker. Here, the Ducks have only two linebackers on the field, so when they drop into their zone coverage, Cracraft throttles down in the zone between the two LBs. This is exactly where Falk finds him:

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The QB places this throw right between the two LBs, and the slot WR is waiting for the football in that soft area of the coverage. The easy pitch-and-catch gives Washington State a fresh set of downs.

Here is another example of this design against California. The Cougars line up with 20 personnel, again with slot formation on the right and a single receiver split to the left. The Golden Bears have their 4-2-5 nickel in the game and walk the extra DB down into a linebacker’s alignment on the weakside of the offensive formation:CFBPreview10WSUPlay6Still1

Cracraft again runs the crossing route here:CFBPreview10WSUPlay6Still2

The Golden Bears drop into zone coverage here but, initially, linebacker Jalen Jefferson (#7) opens his hips to the slot WR, showing a man coverage look. Cracraft continues across the middle of the field, working behind the second level defenders but remaining in front of the safeties. Falk is able to find his slot WR lurking in the soft area of the coverage:

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Lastly, one more example of this concept, now out of the doubles alignment:

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Washington is the slot receiver on the right and he runs the crossing route. Falk tries to hit a route along the sideline, and the pass falls incomplete.

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Mark Schofield wrote this entry. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

All video and images courtesy the Pac-12 Network.

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