Although used sparingly during David Shaw’s tenure at Stanford, the buck sweep will figure much more prominently in the Cardinal’s run game under first-year head coach Troy Taylor. Similar to the power and counter runs, buck sweep is a gap-scheme run that attempts to open a running lane to the outside of a formation.
What is Buck Sweep?
If you play Madden, you may have heard of the buck sweep, or even used it on occasion. The concept utilizes not one, but two pulling guards to create a crease on the outside for the offense to exploit. The first puller will likely kick out a defender creeping up on the EDGE, while the second puller will make their way to the second level to engage with linebackers or safeties. Meanwhile, the rest of the offensive line and tight ends will be “down blocking”, or blocking away from the play side. The concept is very similar to power and counter except for the fact that both of those plays involve just one pulling guard.
Sacramento State utilized the quarterback buck sweep on their game-winning drive against Idaho this past season. Here, the Hornets motion a wide receiver to the right in order to have an extra-blocker on the second and third levels. Also, 220 lb wide receiver Pierre Williams remains attached to the line in order to have an extra edge blocker. When the ball is snapped, Williams and the play-side tackle execute down blocks on the defenders to their inside. The center executes a reach block, which is a block that attempts to get leverage on an outside defender. The back-side tackle goes directly to the center level, leaving the back-side EDGE open. This may have been by design, as Taylor probably has confidence that quarterback Asher O’Hara will outrun the back-side defenders. Since the linebackers all blitz and all the edge defenders are covered, the first pulling guard engages with a safety that reads the run play, while the second guard covers a linebacker who comes back into the play. The result is a huge gain and prime field position for the Hornets, who were able to score on the drive.
To run buck sweep effectively, the Cardinal will need athletic and mobile guards that can engage linebackers and safeties quickly. It remains to be seen if Stanford will have those pieces at their disposal, but buck sweep could still be a useful concept for the Cardinal in 2023.