The Complete Guide to the Buck Sweep Play

Posted by AJ Forbes on

Thanks to Tubby Raymond and the University of Delaware, the Buck Sweep is known as the signature play of the Wing-T.

The scheme has stood the test of time and continues to cause trouble for defense decades after its invention. If you’re a fan of the Wing-T, the Spread, or anything in between, every offense has a place for the Buck Sweep.

What is the Buck Sweep?

The Buck Sweep is a misdirection off-tackle run with two pullers as lead blockers, used primarily as a part of the Wing-T Offense.

What is the Buck Sweep

Despite connotations with the term “sweep” it is not just a perimeter run. It’s a versatile scheme designed to take advantage of indecision, get blockers in space, and hit a vertical crease in the defense.

Depending on how the defense reacts, the play could hit off-tackle or all the way outside on the edge.

What are the Strengths of the Buck Sweep?

A huge strength of the Buck Sweep is that when it is run as part of the traditional Wing-T, it is very tough for the defense to see who has the football early on in the play.

The under-center Buck Sweep is part of a series–the Buck Series to be specific–that stresses the defense in multiple gaps.

Buck Sweep

With the Fullback faking Trap to the weak side of the formation, the Tailback stressing the defense horizontally to the strong side, and the Quarterback delivering layered hand-offs before booting out to the weak side, discipline is critical on defense if they hope to make a tackle. If the second and third levels of the defense don’t properly run fit, there is great potential for a crease to develop.

Another strength of the Buck Sweep is that the blocking scheme up front takes advantage of angles that allow under-sized Offensive Linemen to displace the defense horizontally, as opposed to vertically. Any team wanting to run Buck Sweep doesn’t need the stereotypical "mauler" at guard to run it. 

 

What are the Weaknesses of the Buck Sweep?

The biggest weakness of the Buck Sweep is that it relies on timing and spacing from the offensive line and backfield, and if either of those are disrupted, it can cause a lot of problems for the play.

Weaknesses of the Buck Sweep

While any team wishing to run the Buck Sweep doesn’t need to have road graders on the Offensive Line, the success of the play is dependent on the Guards (and sometimes a Tackle) having the ability to pull and block in space. Without these pullers, there is no Buck Sweep. 

In addition, it’s a very intricate play that needs ample practice time to perfect the layered hand-offs, the pull paths, and the Tailback reads off those pullers.

Just like a complex pass game relies on timing between the quarterback and his receivers, the buck sweep needs precision footwork and timing between the offensive line and the backfield for the play to have its full intended effect.

Buck Sweep Blocking Rules vs 3-4 Odd Front

Let's look at how the play is blocked against the common 3-4 defensive front.

Buck Sweep vs 3-4 Defense

LT - Reach the B-gap defender

LG - Open pull around and through the alley made by the RG kick out and the playside down blocks. Blocking any defender that comes down through the alley

C - Reach the Nose Tackle and prevent playside penetration

RG - Open pull and kick out the Cornerback to create the outside wall of the alley. Aim for the upfield shoulder to maintain inside-out leverage.

RT - Combination block with the Tight End on the Defensive End to the Mike. Maintain leverage on the outside shoulder of both the Defensive End and the Mike to create the inside wall of the alley

TE - Combination block with the Right Tackle on the Defensive End to the Mike. Maintain leverage on the outside shoulder of both the Defensive End and the Mike to create the inside wall of the alley

WB - Down block on the end man on the line of scrimmage (the Sam in this case)

FB - Side step to the weak side to clear the midline and fake the Trap

TB - Depart flat through where the Fullback’s heels were pre-snap and receive the hand-off. Read the kick-out block of the RG to determine when to make the North-South cut, then follow the LG up through the alley. 

QB - Reverse pivot after receiving the snap and fake the Trap with the Fullback. After faking the Trap, work straight back to mesh with the Tailback coming across the midline and boot to the weak side

X Receiver - Push up to the near Safety 

Buck Sweep Blocking Rules vs 4-3 Even Front

Next we'll look at how many coaches like to block the Buck Sweep vs a standard 4-3 defense

Buck Sweep vs 4-3 Defense

LT - Release up through the B-gap bubble and reach the Will

LG - Open pull around and through the alley made by the RG kick out and the playside down blocks. Blocking any defender that comes down through the alley

C - Back block on the Nose Tackle

RG -  Open pull and kick out the Cornerback to create the outside wall of the alley. Aim for the upfield shoulder and maintain inside-out leverage as you run your feet.

RT - Down block on the Defensive Tackle lined up over the RG

TE - Combination block with the Wingback on the Defensive End to the Sam. Once, the Wingback blocks the outside shoulder, maintain outside leverage on the Defensive End to create the inside wall of the alley

WB - Combination block with the Tight End on the Defensive End to the Sam. Provide the Tight End a shot on the Defensive End that allows him to maintain outside leverage, then aim for the outside shoulder of the Sam at second level

FB - Side step to the weak side to clear the midline and fake the Trap

TB - Depart flat through where the Fullback’s heels were pre-snap and receive the hand-off. Read the kick-out block of the RG to determine when to make the North-South cut, then follow the LG up through the alley

QB - Reverse pivot after receiving the snap and fake the Trap with the Fullback. After faking the Trap, work straight back to mesh with the Tailback coming across the midline and boot to the weak side

X Receiver - Push up to the near Safety 

Buck Sweep Variations

The Buck Sweep play comes in many forms. Let's take a look at a couple of different ways that offenses can run this play.

Variation 1: Shotgun Wing-T Buck Sweep

Shotgun Buck Sweep

Buck Sweep from Shotgun is very similar to the under-center version. The blocking scheme is very similar, but the true variance comes with the backfield responsibilities. Instead of layered hand-offs, the QB simply shuffles with the Tailback at the mesh point and boots away. There is an opportunity to read the unblocked Defensive End to allow for a QB keeper.

Gus Malzahn and Auburn popularized this version of the Buck Sweep in college football when Cam Newton was the quarterback, and the defense had to worry about the quarterback keeping the ball away from the play.

Variation 2: I-Wing Buck Sweep

I Formation Buck Sweep

This variation isn’t much different than the Wing-T Buck Sweep. The primary difference is that in an I-formation the Tailback takes a counter step before going downhill for the hand-off. The Fullback runs the same path, the QB’s footwork is nearly identical, and the blocking scheme is unchanged. Running Buck Sweep from I-Wing is merely a different presentation for the defense.

Learn more about the Wing-T

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