AUBURN’S BUCK SWEEP: A Great Compliment to the Power Play
One of my favorite teams to study is Auburn and Gus Malzahn’s schemes. Even though many people describe them as a spread team, they are definitely a run first zone, power, counter, and buck sweep team. Their run game mirrors a lot of the wing-t scheme and philosophy. The other great thing about their offense is the motions, formations, personnel groups, trades, and misdirection that really allows them to be great at these few things and run them from a myriad of looks and tempos. The run I’m going to focus on is their Buck Sweep running play. The Buck Sweep is their outside run play and their compliment to the their power and counter run game. I say this because their play-calling is really predicated on how the opposing defensive end is going to play the down block by the tackle. If the defensive end is going to stay more square and squeeze and allow a kick out block by the fullback or guard, then they will run Power. If the defensive end is going to close down hard and wrong arm the guard or fullback then their answer will be the buck sweep so they can just pin that defensive end down and pull guys around him to get the edge.
Below is an example of their power play vs LSU. As you will notice the defensive end crashes down hard which makes it impossible for the fullback to kick him out. They even tried to soften him up with the fake jet motion, but the defensive end paid no attention to the fake and just read his key. See below:
To counter this type of play by defensive ends, Auburn will run the buck sweep. You will notice how they let the defensive end close and the full back pins him to the inside. The slot will crack the playside LB. Depending on the front, they may get one or two pullers out in front. Since they are running to the 1 tech the PSG has to down block the 1 technique so only the BSG will pull against this look. The first puller has the first defender outside the box. The PST since he has an open gap, he will go to the backside LB.
Here is a look when running the buck sweep to the 3 tech. Now the PST will down block the 3, the PSG will look for first defender outside the box, C blocks back, BSG will pull around and read the first pullers block, and BST will squeeze hinge. The backside puller actually gets knocked off because of the penetration of LSU’s defensive line but you can see how they get the ball to the edge because of the defensive end crashing so hard.
Here is another look at the buck sweep to the 3 technique, where they get both pullers around the edge. Here is also a good look at the use of motion to try and hold the backside LB and pursuit. Old wing-t teams held the backside with the fake trap ball handling, but this is Auburns form of holding the backside. They will also use the orbit motion and fake the reverse after giving the sweep.
Here is another look at the buck sweep in this game, except this time they motion a WR in to get a good angle on his crack block of the LB.
This time they motion from the outside WR spot to run the buck sweep. Here the defensive end doesn’t crash as much which makes the play less effective. I’m sure the coaches in the box saw this and came back with power or counter since the defensive end wasn’t crashing as hard.
Another way Auburn window dresses this play is they start in a empty formation look and bring the RB back into the backfield to run the buck sweep. Here is a look at that variation:
Another thing Auburn will do off this sweep play is a misdirection reverse play. If they feel the backside is over pursuing the play, then they will come back with some type of reverse. They make it look the exact same to the defense except the center uses bad technique on his back block so he can actually reach him to the reverse side, and the BST steps down and then gains an angle on the backside LB. Here is that look below:
Another way they will slow down the pursuit is with their naked play action pass off the buck sweep action. They didn’t run it against LSU but here is a clip vs Arkansas. Here the FB pins the defensive end, the WR in the tight split who usually cracks runs a drag. This is difficult to defend because the LB’s are reading the guards who are showing buck sweep, and it looks like a crack block by the WR, but then he just goes by and outflanks them to the flat. They run a smash concept with the other two WR’s as other options.
I think Auburn’s success really lies in the simplicity of their offense and having answers to all of their base plays. I believe they go into the game wanting to run more downhill with power, counter, and zone, but if the defensive end is crashing they will go to the buck sweep as their answer. If the defensive end becomes hard to pin for the sweep then they will go back to the power. If teams over pursue they will use misdirection reverses and naked play-action passes. This is very similar to how Wing-T teams operate where every play compliments another.