Thinking about the WSU sweep

THE COUGARS MAY run about 25 percent of their snaps from under center this season, Mike Leach says. The Cougs of course are still operating the Air Raid offense and so Luke Falk and Peyton Bender under center will be throwing vertical passes out of the formation, and running play action. But they’ll also be employing some running back sweeps. And that brings up some fascinating discussion points.

There are any number of things that need to occur for a running back sweep to be successful.

Not all running backs are built for a sweep – gaining the corner requires a very different locomotion than being good at the inside zone run.

Washington State's Keith Harrington (pictured above) seems a really good candidate when it comes to the sweep, his ability to explode when out in space seemingly makes him a natural. What will also be intriguing is to see how much or if Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks are incorporated in sweep plays run from under center.

Naturally, you have to be able to block effectively on the perimeter to run a successful sweep. That’s a two-fold proposition.

Your pulling lineman (or linemen) have to be agile and fast enough to get out in front and pave the way. One generally thinks of a pulling guard(s) here but don’t forget about the center or tackle.

If you have an athletic center who can run, and you’re going to sweep right and the center is covered or slightly shaded in an odd man front, the right guard can block down and the center can pull. It’s not unheard of for uber-athletic tackles to get out in front of a running back on a sweep, either.

So will Washington State guards Gunnar Eklund and/or Eduardo Middleton be best when it comes to pulling? Or will center Riley Sorenson, or even LT Joe Dahl or RT Cole Madison be out running at the point?

The second part is that you don’t get there on a sweep through o-line blocking alone. Your perimeter receivers simply must be adept at executing their blocks.

Some receivers aren’t great at that. Others excel at it. And there’s a fine line between effective receiver blocking and holding out on the perimeter (though the Pac-12 officials have seemed incredibly reluctant to throw the flag when it comes to that).

With three of the four WR spots featuring new starters this season, who are the Cougs’ best - and most consistent - blockers? That's something else to consider both this Saturday (when the Cougs hold their first official scrimmage of the spring) and beyond.

And then there’s the misdirection part of it. If you set 'em up, if you can make the safeties bite and think you’re going one way, a big gainer on a running back sweep becomes far more possible.

Leach plans to run 70 plays in the scrimmage on Saturday. That could mean 17-18 plays from under center.

Even if only one of them is a running back sweep, there’s a whole lot of intrigue that will take place in just that one snap.

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