The punt return is based upon pressure and all of the schemes are built off this. Since we use the defensive unit, we feel that adjustments to last minute alignments and fakes are simple for the players. The techniques used in the mirrored pressure schemes include: blocking punts and blocking coverage players.
The primary purpose of pressure is to block punts, even though there are secondary benefits such as stressing the protection scheme allowing the return blocks to form, or mentally stressing the punter keeping them from executing properly, etc. Blocking punts fall right in line with the punt return’s name – “EFFORT”. Effort and the desire to get to the block spot are critical components to success, and then throw in a little technique and you have the ingredients to block a lot of punts. Blocking punts require a great “get-off” and fundamentals at the “block spot”, including taking the ball off of the punter’s foot.
A good jump (get-off) starts with the stance. Since we drill the “form start” year round, this is the sprinter’s style stance that we use. We want the players to hug the LOS. The hand will be back away from the football about one foot so that when the head extends past the down hand, the helmet is not in the neutral zone. The bottom line – take as much of the football as possible since every inch counts in blocking a punt. The Mike linebacker will yell “see the ball”, a call to remind players to burst on ball movement – only! On ball movement, the front line will explode with a low pad level.
Pressure Middle–Return Middle
Scouting and pre-game information must be given to the players to identify the exact location of the block spot. The block spot is typically 1½ yards in front of where the punter’s plant foot lands. The player’s course must put him on a path to put his body directly though the block spot, which will allow him to block the punt, but not rough the punter if he does not get the block.
Coaching Point: If players get knocked off of, or blocked out of the path that will take them past the block spot, they must pull up and gather themselves, and then get into the return. If their path will bring them up short of the block spot, they should keep going because the punter may redirect his punt.
- “Side – cross the block spot out the opposite corner, or middle – run out the top corner.
- “Block the punt with the hands, taking the ball off of the punter’s foot -focus on the punter’s foot.
- “If laying out, the path must be through the block spot.
- “Do not close eyes.
Middle Pressure–Middle Pickett
Excellent returns versus tight and Purdue and Shield punt formations.
Good versus disciplined coverage teams.
Players use punch, release and wall (“PRW”) technique. Best results forcing coverage to release outside.
Fours responsible for run fakes, as well as blocking protector and punter.
Returner must run north-south at full speed.
About the Author of this post:
Jerry Campbell has over 30 years of high school and college coaching experience. He has experience as a head coach, offensive coordinator, and various position coaches. He has written numerous football coaching articles in various publications, is the author of over 30 books on coaching football, and has produced 12 coaching video series. Additionally, he is a nationally sought after speaker on the coaching clinic circuit.