Two weekends ago, the Tennessee Volunteers unveiled a new dual sweep play. This was a play that was recently added to the playbook by head coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike DeBord. The Vols only ran the play twice versus Alabama, both first down runs, but brought the play back multiple times this past weekend versus the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky had no answer to the Vols scheme, as Tennessee went for over 20 yards on this play multiple times, including a 28 yard touchdown run by quarterback Josh Dobbs. So what is this dual sweep play and why is it so effective?
The design of this play is simple. Both offensive tackles block down on the defensive ends, sealing them inside. Both offensive guards pull outside to block the outside linebackers. The center’s job is to control the nose tackle and not let him impact either the running back or the quarterback. On the strong side, the tight end has to get to the second level and block the middle linebacker. The point of this blocking scheme is to seal the edge on both sides. With the tackles blocking down and the guards pulling around, there should be room around the edge for a runner on either side.
Dobbs’ job is to read the weakside linebacker. Dobbs can either keep the ball himself if the linebacker moves toward the running back, or he can hand it to his back if the linebacker respects the quarterback keep.
The beauty of this play is that it perfectly attacks a 30 front defense. A defense that aligns with three interior defensive linemen and four linebackers is going to struggle to defend this play just because of their alignment. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Vols broke out this play against two 30 front teams in Alabama and Kentucky. DeBord put this play in specifically to attack the 30 front.
The defensive ends’ alignment in a 30 front, directly over or just inside the offensive tackles, puts them at a big disadvantage. That down block is an easy assignment for any offensive tackle.
The toughest responsibility goes to the offensive guards. These guys are pulling around and have to block an outside linebacker in space.
The weakside linebacker is the player Tennessee really wants to attack here. He is left unblocked and Dobbs is reading him. If he stays on the weakside, Dobbs can hand to the back moving in the other direction. If he chases the back, then Dobbs will have all sorts of room to run in the area he vacated.
The Vols first used this play against Alabama. DeBord called the play twice, both in the first quarter, and Dobbs kept both times for gains of 17 and 11 yards.
The first time Tennessee ran the play, Dobbs was reading Alabama’s best defender, linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Ragland saw right guard Jack Jones pulling right and Hurd headed that way, and began to flow in that direction.
With Ragland out of the way, Dobbs pulled the ball and ran left. Kyler Kerbyson blocked down and sealed off the defensive end, and Dylan Wiesman did a great job of cutting down the outside linebacker.
The result? A 17 yard gain.
After only running the play twice against the Crimson Tide, Tennessee went back to the play versus Kentucky. In fact, they scored their first touchdown of the game on the play. Here the Vols snapped the ball with 24 seconds on the play clock and caught Kentucky off guard. The Wildcats weakside linebacker Josh Forrest was not set.
Forrest then, realized that Dobbs still had the ball, and was way out of position.
This is not a play that Forrest will want to see on film. He immediately ran to his left to defend Hurd. This was an easy read for Dobbs, who kept the ball himself.
Left guard Mack Crowder failed to make his block on the outside linebacker, but it wouldn’t matter. Dobbs used his speed to get to the edge, made the safety miss, and ended up going in for a 34 yard touchdown run.
A quick side note – look at that block by Josh Smith. He ran the corner off and then finished with a perfect block at the goal line. This is an outstanding effort by Smith.
Something that has impressed me about Tennessee’s receivers is their blocking ability downfield. Jones and receivers coach Zach Azzanni stress the importance of blocking downfield and it has paid off.
Wide receivers blocking downfield is the often difference between a good run and a touchdown. Dobbs made a great move to avoid the tackles, and the line made the blocks needed to get a solid first down run, but without Smith’s block, Dobbs likely does not score. Smith and the rest of the Vols receiving credit deserve a lot of credit for consistently fighting to finish blocks downfield.
Now, back to the dual sweep play. Dobbs didn’t get to have all the fun by himself. Once Kentucky began to respect him keeping the ball, Alvin Kamara got to do some damage.
Here, Tennessee faced a second and eleven with 1:20 left in the first half, and didn’t appear to want to press the ball downfield. DeBord just called for a simple dual read play. Kamara turned a basic handoff into a 63 yard gain, setting up Tennessee to score before half and blowing the game open.
Forrest at weakside linebacker is once again the read player.
This time, Forrest hesitates and stays on the backside, thinking Dobbs will keep the ball like he did so many times. Dobbs made the correct read and handed to Kamara.
The blockers on the front side deserve a lot of credit here. Kerbyson, Crowder, and tight end Ethan Wolf did an outstanding job of making their blocks to allow Kamara to turn the corner untouched and Josh Malone dominated the cornerback.
By the time Forrest recovered, Kamara was already to the edge and he missed a diving attempt at a tackle. Kamara was too fast for the defense, and he galloped 63 yards before he was taken down from behind.
When Tennessee blocks this well and Dobbs makes the correct read, it’s going to be tough for any defense to stop this play. Dobbs and Kamara are such dangerous athletes. When either of them has the ball moving around the edge, the defense is in trouble. On both the examples from the Kentucky game, the runner was just so fast that nothing the defense did mattered. This is a fantastic scheme because it puts the Vols’ best players in the open field with the ball in their hands.