Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Special Teams Reps

Posted by admin August - 7 - 2018 - Tuesday

I was observing practice yesterday and it brought back a memory of how I “conserved” time when working on Special Teams.

It’s a shame but, Special Teams is still the most over-looked part of the game for too many coaches! You’ve heard the saying that “Special Teams is 1/3 of the game.” I believe that it’s true. Many games’ outcomes have been determined by the “hidden yardage” in the kicking game… and more directly a kicking game gaffe has spelled defeat for the coach who did not put in the practice time necessary to be successful. I still hold to the adage that I first heard Lou Holtz say when he was in his first head coaching position at William and Mary. It went, “In a close game between two evenly-matched teams, it’s probably going to come down to a play in the kicking game that determines the outcome!” If it’s so important, why don’t coaches spend more practice time preparing for the kicking game? It may be due to time constraints. I want to give you a couple of ideas that can help you maximize special teams practice time to get more bang for your buck!

Punt Team: I believe it is the single most important special team! Why? Cuz it’s used more often than any other…. so it has the most impact on a game. Punting has 3 phases… which makes it harder to perform.
1) obviously it is the punt itself. I found out years ago that it’s hard to find a quality high school punter. So, we found an athlete who could catch and kick… even if he only took 1 or 2 steps. I told them that “there are no style points” for punting! We wanted to get the ball off and… this is KEY!… I did not want him to kick it to the return man!!! Yep! Why risk a decent return by kicking it TO the returner? Line drive it; kick it to one side; sky-ball it… but don’t give him something he can return.
2) is the snap. Again… too often overlooked. If we lacked a quality snapper, I used a QB with a good arm. I told him just to take a passing grip; turn around and bend over and… throw a pass through his legs! It worked out fine! Our all-state QB was our snapper one year. I told him to “throw the pass” and don’t even worry about covering. I found as the year went along that he would jog on down. He even made a tackle one game!
3) protection and coverage. This could be split into two categories but since it pertains to the same people, I combined them. There are any number of alignments and blocking techniques. If you don’t know them, get some info on it. Coverage… the same thing. The main thing here, I think, is to have 6 guys with good speed and can tackle in open space. No need for size cuz they don’t really block… just punch and go!

Finally, let me talk about how to maximize your reps in practice. We could get off anywhere from 6-9 punts in a 7 minute period each day! How? The main thing is not to waste time. You set the ball on your own 35 for the first punt. Kick it. Sprint down and cover. Say, the ball landed on the opposite 35. Do NOT call the punt team back to you. Keep them right there. Turn things around (how many of your say “riverside??!!!”) and kick back to you. There are 20 of the 22 players involved 30- 40 yards away from you. Have 2 new return men waiting with you on the near end. They step on as you and your staff jog down. The other 20 get lined up and punt again…. back toward the original end of the field. This time put the ball on your own 10. Kick it out and set the ball at the 50 or opposing 45. Flip it and now you “pooch” punt and keep it in the field of play. Next, you set the ball on your own 1 yard line and punt from your end zone. You keep “flipping the field” instead of having the punt team and return team personnel jogging back to you each time. You’d be amazed at how much time you can save and how many more punts you can get off in a 10 minute period.

Oh.. since none of the “big dogs” are on the punt team, have them down at the other end working on pat/field goal blocking. If your punter is not your place-kicker, you can be even be kicking extra points at the same time as your punt practice is going on. Learn to conserve time and get more done!

If these ideas intrigue you, check out my dvd’s that I did for Championship Productions on Making Your Special Teams Special!

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