Steve Channell Brings Back the Buck Sweep

This is the second article about Steve Channell from the 2017 National Wing-T Clinic – check out the first article here.

After talking about formations, shifts, and trades coach Channell dug into his favorite and core Wing-T play: buck sweep. He has been a coach for 24 years and has built two different programs around this single play. He is always under center.

Steve opened with this quote:

Pick 8 plays, and run ’em, and don’t do anything else.Chuck Klausing

He claims that buck sweep is both the best and worst play. Best because when it is run well it is almost impossible to stop. Worst because it has more variables than most plays that must all be in sync. It takes time, countless reps, and a lot of coach patience to get it right.

Buck Sweep Reminders

Before coach Channell jumped into the details of his variations, he shared some valuable general thoughts:

  • Assignments don’t change - rules are rules!
  • Flexibility can come on blocking assignments with specific tags, which we will get into shortly
  • The play can wear a defense down
  • Very detailed coaching will be required
  • Today’s defenses are geared towards stopping spread concepts, not so much closed formations with a run game base
  • Forcing defenses to defend the buck sweep often leaves vulnerabilities elsewhere
  • Biggest problem you will see as a coach is penetration, usually the result of a poor or lazy first step
  • Formation into the boundary should be a staple. He will usually put in an unbalanced line and run to the boundary on the first series to see how the defense reacts.
  • Shifting can create exposed flanks or at least keep the defense vanilla

Reminders on the Key Buck Sweep Rules

These base rules for running the buck sweep are as good as any that I’ve seen, so start there if you need a refresher.

Here are his position specific tips:

  • Wingback: start with good alignment, 1st step he must stay on track and keep his head on the correct side
  • TE: same as wingback, 1st step flat then keep going down the line
  • Front-side tackle: same as wing and TE, secure the 1st level first before going to the 2nd level
  • Front-side guard: “eyes, steps, shoulder, whistle”. “Run right, right shoulder.” I use similar guidance, often reminding players that they use the same shoulder as the foot they take their first step with.
  • C: 1st step must be to play-side, remember that he will always have help but get tight to tackle quickly then work up field
  • Back-side guard: “go, footwork with a TIGHT course, eyes, don’t run past the defender”
  • Back-side tackle: first step will hard, then cut off backside sprint out and block someone
  • Split-end: get to the 3rd level, middle of the field
  • FB: get into the LOS with a good proximity fake, then cut off back-side penetration and pursuit
  • QB: on his first step his back should be to the LOS, carry out all of his steps. The action must hold the inside LB with good use of shoulders, eyes, and head.
  • Halfback: stay on track and do not beat the back-side guard. Plant on the outside foot, square shoulders. Don’t over coach this player beyond the square cut – this is where his instincts kick in.

A Guide to Coach Channell’s Tags

Let’s dive into the variations he runs. Steve wants to create exposed flanks by formations, and he can get to that by shifting (maybe from scramble) or trading. Unbalanced sets are a must, and he wants equal time spent on the SE sweep. He wants to hang his hat on something, and that something in buck sweep. He builds his offense around this play. His variations and tags include:

  • Traditional buck sweep
  • Sweep after shifts or trades
  • Unbalanced into the boundary
  • Sweep Arc (wing outside release)
  • Sweep (lead)
  • Sweep Fold (wing under, TE fan)
  • Sweep Sucker (guards pull, FB gets ball)
  • Sweep Naked (QB keep opposite)
  • Willie (criss-cross, has to be part of buck success)
  • Sweep Wham (wing as a flanker, in motion cracks)

Buck Sweep Arc

Run this when there is a player coming hard off the edge that is hard for the wing to handle. Wing instead kicks out the force player and the play-side guard will kick out the squeezer.

Buck Sweep Fold

Run fold against a strong defensive “read” team. The DE will step out when the TE arc releases and the play-side guard will kick him out. The wing will fold under the TE’s arc release and go to linebacker.

Buck Sweep Wham

When a LB is scraping hard to C gap and the wing doesn’t have a good blocking angle, move the wing out to flanker and motion-crack with him.

Buck Sweep from Different Formations

Here are a few variations from different formations.

This is a backfield shifted to the weak-side. You lose the WB block but perhaps the defense over-rotates to stop a weak-side dive or belly play.

This is a tackle-over formation, with the SE brought into a tight position. If the defense doesn’t shift over, buck sweep could be very tough to stop. If it overplays, then trap might be strong.

This is an SE-over formation, pulling the CB out wide. We ran this quite a bit last season with good results. Note that he also flips the tackle and TE.

Here he is again taking the wing out a blocking position, but if the jet motion pulls a linebacker over or rotates the safety, it might be just as good or better than blocking someone.

This last look creates a heavy front, nasty splits, with 10 gaps to defend. Many defenses may have a hard time figuring out how to align against this.