Practicing & Installing the Bucksweep – Text by Coach Lew Johnston

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve communicated with Coach Lew Johnston via email. He has always been helpful, giving me advice when I didn’t have anything to give him back. At the National Wing-T Clinic in Pittsburgh, I got the chance to talk to Lew in person. He’s overwhelmingly nice, and even more energetic. Anyway, he and I kept in touch via email and I asked him for some information that I could post on wingtcoach.com. Lew sent me the document below.

Essentially, it is his description of how to install and practice the Bucksweep, a staple of the Wing-T offense. I created this website to both promote the Wing-T and more importantly to help new coaches understand, implement, and use the offense. As you read Coach Johnston’s explanation to the coaches on his staff, you can’t help but notice the DETAIL that he goes into. He starts with practically blank diagrams, since he wants his coaches to draw the play up themselves (smart teaching tool). From there, he gives the rules for each of the positions.
When I first started coaching, this was all of the instruction that I received. We did have the plays diagrammed for us, and we had the rules, but no foundation for actually teaching kids to run the play. We also didn’t know things like, “When do I call this play?” or “What kind of angle does player X take?”

Coach Johnston provides details that will prevent his coaches from really wondering about the play, and then enables them to pass on the knowledge that the players will need to execute the play. He starts with coaching points for the positions, then discusses team installation, and then goes back to more coaching points.

I hope to accomplish two things with this article. First, I would like you to get an expert’s explanation of how you should install Bucksweep. Second, I would like those of you who are a bit more on the advanced side to consider how you instruct your frosh and middle school coaches. Do you give them a playbook and say, “Go!”, or do you give them all of the necessary details for the foundation of your program to be successfully laid?

Coach Johnston’s instructions:

Play: 121

 

Lew Bucksweep diagram 

**(Please note that Lew leaves the diagrams incomplete so that the players need to complete them, using the rules)

 Rules:

Te- gap-down-lb

3- gap-down-lb

4- pull.  Block out on 1st man outside of wb’s block.

5- reach- on- away (if dt is in a 1 tech) 

6- pull.  Turn up into hole as front-side guard kicks out.  Wall off the back-side pursuit

7- area- cross-field.  Kick out db outside the hole

qb- reverse pivot off mid-line.   hand off to hb. Boot-leg

fb- dive for left foot of 5 man. fake 24.  Block back-side a gap

hb- carrier.  Receive hand off.  read block of guards. Cut into  “tunnel”.

wb- block first free man inside *stay on your block once you  make contact!

Se- cut off free safety

 

Notes and coaching points on executing buck sweep:

 

1-       Te and tackle must understand that they must stay on their path when down blocking.  Don’t chase.  There will be someone inside that they can get a body on!

2-       Wingback:  cheat up if necessary but come hard!  Don’t worry about missing the defender.  If he steps around you… let him go!  The pulling guard will pick him up.  But.. If you make contact, you must keep contact and ride him.  The worst thing you can do is to hesitate and let that de/olb get penetration. 

If it’s an even front defense and the man over/shaded on the te “disappears” inside as you start down, you must stay on your path just like we tell the te and tackle  and block the next free man inside (probably the lb).

3-       The front side guard must get depth on his first 2 pull steps and then “level off on the 3rd step.  From the 1st step, he needs to get his eyes on the tail of the wingback so he can focus on his target.  He starts down-hill on his 4th step and wants to get an inside-out angle on the 1st defender outside the wing’s block to kick him out.  Be prepared to meet force with force and run your feet to move that guy out of there!

4-       The center must step to play side and at least “help” with a defensive tackle over our guard… until the tackle arrives for his down block.  Use you hand if you need to but protect the a gap.  There may be a lb blitz into the play side a gap that you will have to stop!  If no threat to a gap, then turn back and pick up any “trash” trying to run through over top of you or your back side a gaps.

5-       Fullback:  you must be a “faker/blocker”.  Your fake of the trap must hold the lb’s!  Then as you roll over an imaginary ball, you have to fill the backside a gap and stop anyone trying to run through…. Especially an even front defensive tackle over our backside pulling guard.  They will try to “hip pocket” the guard as he pulls towards the hole.  You must stop him by driving him to the outside away from the hole!  *a critical block that must be emphasized.

6-       Backside guard:  as you pull, you must begin to “eye” the lb’s.  As you pull down the line, get a little depth from the line so you can clean any trash along your path.  As you see the front side guard kick out, you turn up inside of that block and look to “wall off” pursuit from the backside lb.  *this is a critical block.  You will blow open the hole by clearing out the rb’s “tunnel.”  *this block can be practiced in “perfect play/buck sweep drill” in practice.  The play does not count unless this guard finds a bag and makes contact.

7-       Backside tackle:  take a hard gap step and don’t let anyone penetrate that b gap.  Then move up to lb depth and begin to sprint across the field.  There will be a defensive back who will show up.  Optimally, we’d like him to kick out the corner support or the safety who may be filling the alley.  Keep running so the running back can cut off of you.

8-       Halfback:  you are the carrier on 121/929.  You cross over and run through the heels of the fullback moving close to full speed and receive the hand-off from the qb.  You want to “attack” the flank with that speed to force the defense to over-pursue.  While you are running across the formation, your eyes should be on your pulling guards.  Stay parallel to the line… don’t run downhill!  Keep some depth between you and your guards.  As you see the backside guard start to turn up in the hole, you decelerate by “cleaning your cleats” and make a sharp 90 degree cut into the hole.  You are now running for what we can the “tunnel.”  We tell our hb’s:  get us 4 yards and the rest is yours!”  So he has to turn this play up inside.  It does no good to bounce it outside because there is no blocking out there!  Turn it up into the “tunnel.”  Get the 4 yards by blasting through the hole and explode out the other end.  When you see daylight, make a cut and go!

9-       Quarterback:  your job is to ensure a good hand-off and then sprint to the line and not slow down until you cross it outside the tackle’s position while faking waggle!  Step back on the mid-line and continue on the mid-line to hand off to the hb crossing the formation.  Make sure your hand-off is only elbow length and “sink” the ball deep into the hb’s pocket.  Then sprint!

10-   Se:  push off the line for 2-3 steps and then sprint for center field.  Your job is to try to cut off the free safety.  If the play breaks, you will have the key downfield block that will turn a good gain into a td!  Hustle!

 

 

This play requires a lot of repetitions to get the timing and execution down right.  But once you’ve got it, it is the most devastating running play in football! 

 

Practicing the buck sweep:

 

When first installing 121/929, it’s best to do it “whole-part-whole”.  Introduce it as a team and walk through each position and show them their responsibility.  Then walk through it as a team… and i mean “walk”!  Just like a slow motion video being shown.  In fact, you can yell “pause!” And have everyone freeze.  If you’d like, you can say “reverse!” And have them walk backwards from whence they came… just as if they were players on the screen running a play backwards as the coach rewinds the tape!  The kids love this and it shows them that their path is important.

 

 

When you go “parts”, the line and te go with the line coach and the backs and se’s go with the back coach.  The line runs “buck sweep drill” just as it’s diagrammed in tubby raymond’s and/or denny creehan’s books and tapes. 

 

Linemen and te’s:

 

*key:  make sure that proper steps are being taken.  *key: make sure that the bags being hit are being moved and that your linemen aren’t just digging their feet in one place!  *key:  depth of the front side guard.  *key:  backside guard runs through the hole looking to “blow up” the defender in the hole.  But…. The b-s guard does not chase outside the hole.  His point of contact is:  middle of the hole to the inside… looking to wall off pursuit if nobody is in the “tunnel.”  This must be rep’ed a bunch so the b-s guard can “see” this!

***note: the playside tackle and te need to see a lot of different scenario’s as far as interpreting the area that they are down blocking.  *key:  get the bag man to line up on the line of scrimmage one time so the te or t has to come hard on a gap block angle.  The next time, set the bag deep so the te and/or t has to move up to a “down” or “smother” block position.  Have a man “disappear” inside so he has to stay on his path.  Make sure you change up where the offensive tackle is covered (50 front) and the tackle is uncovered (even front) so the te has to interpret his rule.

Give as many different examples that you can come up with so that the players must interpret their rules and they are not surprised when they go live and the defense isn’t holding bags anymore!!!

 

Backs and se’s:

 

Fullbacks:

Put the 2nd fullback on defense with a bag.  Tell him to come through the a gap to force the fullback running the play to get a block on him.  Be sure the block is with the backside shoulder so the defender is to the outside.  Switch up after running the play so all the fb’s have a chance to be the defensive man.

 

Wingbacks:

 same principle… put the 2nd wing on defense holding a bag.  Give the wing on offense different looks as to how he needs to block the first free man to his inside.  Don’t make it easy on him!  This is a key block and you need to be sure that your wing is not hesitating when he starts down.

 

Halfbacks:

Put the next 2 hb’s at guards!  Make them run the guards’ steps and block the correct man.  Your hb’s need these guys there so they are learning to watch the guard’s as they are crossing the formation.  As the b-s guard turns up into the “tunnel” the hb wants to plant and cut up right behind him.  Set a towel or ring on the ground where you want him to make the 90-degree cut into the tunnel.

 

 

 

Quarterbacks:

Watch his steps to be sure he’s on the midline.  Be sure there’s a good mesh with the hb and that the qb sinks the ball deep in the hb’s pocket.

Have your 2nd qb outside the hb.  As the play starts, he fakes to an imaginary hb and starts his waggle path.  He then throws to the se on the called pattern.  *key:  be sure that the qb running the play carries his fake out all the way to the line of scrimmage outside the tackle box!  Don’t let him be lazy!  All fakes are important.

 

Split ends:

Set up a big blocking dummy in center field and make him sprint to get in front of it and then knock it down.  Later, if you want, you can put an extra se in c.f. with a shield and make the se have to “work” a little to get cut off position.  The 2nd se in line will be the one catching the pass from the 2nd qb throwing the ball.  They rotate from receiver to blocker to f/s and back to the end of the line.

 

Split end side buck sweep

This is also an effective play and needs to be considered just as important as buck sweep to the te flank.  If teams start over-shifting their defense to the te flank (and still want to run buck sweep), then you need a way to attack away from their strength.  There are only a few minor adjustments that have to be made when running this play to the se flank:

1-       We run it only from “red/blue” formation so the hb is in a position to get that good down block angle on the first man inside.

2-       The play-side guard has to remember that we are running it to the se flank, so there are only 2 people (as opposed to 3 when running to the te/wing flank) outside of him.  We have the play-side tackle yell “split” a couple of times to remind the guard.  When the guard pulls, he will have to get downhill earlier because the hole is “shorter” to this flank. 

3-       The back side guard needs to be cognizant of this “shorter” hole also so that he turns up at the correct point along the line.

4-       The se has a key block since the play is being run to his side.  His rule is:  “crack— 1st man inside on the 2nd level.”  This means that he has to start inside after one step and run towards an area we call the “crack box.”  It is an area to the se’s inside where an olb or s/s would align.  He does not block a man.. He blocks the area.  So anyone in that crack box when he arrives is subject to his crack-back block.  If no defender is in the crack box when the se arrives, he stays on his path and comes all the way down to where he may crack on an inside lb.

5-       Wingback has to come in 3 step motion to receive the hand off.  His motion has to be as fast as it would be if he were running a jet sweep or rocket; yet, he has to be at the right spot when the ball is snapped to get the hand-off exchange from the qb.  He then takes the same parallel line till he cleans his cleats and makes his 90 d. Cut into the tunnel.  

 

 

 

Team practice:  buck sweep drill/”perfect play”

 

Our first team drill that we use to execute the buck sweep is a controlled drill using blocking bags and shields.  We also set up our alignment spacers or “tubby sticks” so that our linemen “see” their splits and get properly aligned back off the ball and away from the adjacent lineman.  Our o line coach stands on the line of scrimmage and is evaluating alignment before every play starts.

 

We call this period “buck sweep drill” but it is more acurately a “perfect play” period.  Every assignment must be executed as perfectly as you want it to be.  Every player must stay on his block till the whistle blows.  Every player must hustle back across the line of scrimmage or…. The team runs the play again.  And again. And again!  Until it is executed to the coaches satisfaction.

*** key coaching points:  1- make sure anyone who is blocking a dummy gets his head on the correct side.  2- that every player who is assigned to block a bag drives/moves the dummy in the proper direction until the whistle blows.  Some of them think that if they just kick their feet in the air, that it counts for effort!  3- the se is cutting off the free safety.  4- that the guard’s are getting proper depth on their pull steps.  4- that the back side guard is “finding” that lb in the hole and blocking him or… walling off the backside.  5- critical:  that everyone who is blocking is “on” a bag till the whistle blows!  ( especially that backside guard.  He has the block in the hole that springs the hb!)  If not, they line up and run it again.  If they start fussing at each other for having to run again, they get to do it again!  Coaches don’t have to scream and yell… just simply tell them: “no good.  The wingback stopped driving the bag he was blocking before the whistle blew.  Do it again.”

Once the first play is run correctly, the 1st team gets to run the same play to the other side; i.e., 121 then fly (wing short motion) 429 — buck sweep to the se side.

The 2nd team only gets one play to execute “perfectly.”  It is up to the coaches to decide how picky they want to be with the second unit.

*note:  we even let the jv run this drill with us.

Just keep shotgunning units out of the huddle and really keep a racehorse pace to this drill.

We do this drill every week on tuesdays which is our “big o” day of practice.

 

Team period

The only way to evaluate how well you are executing the buck sweep is to run it live in team time.  We go live in pre-season but always tell our scout defense to tackle our backs high.  We also blow a quick whistle.  Once we are in the regular season practices, our scout defense wears forearm blocking sleeves to absorb some of the blow.  They are told to come hard and try to make the offense miss!  We want it as tough as we can get it on tuesday without turning it into a full scale scrimmage.

 

In our first pre-season scrimmage, our goal is to run buck sweep at least 12 times.  We want to get as in-depth a look at this play as we can.

 

A coach that i conducted a clinic for emailed me recently to say that they broke a 121 for 91 yards last game and… though everyone was in the right place, very few blocks were made.  The rb made a nice cut back coming out of the tunnel and went the distance.  He was flabbergasted that a play could have so few people blocking on it and still break!  My response to him was that i’ve seen it happen dozens of times over the years… where we only got one or two decent blocks, yet the back made a good cut and broke it!  The reason is that the rb has seen it so many times in practice that he knows when and where to make that cut!  It’s why it is so important to practice it a dozen times each week.  Once your kids get it down, change up the defense so they are always interpreting their rules.

 

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