We do not huddle on any field goal or Try attempts. The units will align in the formation, waiting for the calls by the holder. The kicker will always place his tee 7⅓ yards behind the LOS while the unit is lining up. We have a variety of schemes, however they are not all used each year. The installation and decisions vary from year-to-year based upon personnel. The schemes include:
1. Wings: This is the traditional field goal or Try alignment with seven down linemen, with two “wings”. We will always install this formation as our base set because it allows us to teach the basic protection fundamentals.
2. Stack: This is becoming a popular alignment, with four down linemen to one side, and a stack of three players, typically to the kicker’s foot side.
3. Gate: This is a “swing gate” approach where the linemen are aligned away from the ball on the LOS. If forces the defense to spread out and cover the width of the field. If the defense does not cover the alignment, there are various plays that can be executed to take advantage of the voids left by the defense.
There are other circumstances that must be worked on within this area of special teams play. They include:
• Coverage The primary difference between a field goal and Try attempt, other than a field goal is generally a longer kick, is coverage. The players must cover all field goal attempts, until the whistle. A field goal attempt is a live ball, just as a punt until the play is blown dead by an official. The defense may return a missed field goal attempt. In high school and professional football, a blocked Try is dead, however in college a blocked Try can be returned for two points. Therefore, Tries must be covered. Also, a pooch punt from the field goal alignment must be covered –Bomb Squad.
• Last Second Attempt Prepare for all circumstances. How fast can you get the field goal team on the field, lined up, and the ball snapped? This is a key element to practice during the two minute drill. Also, this is one that we always include in our “surprise special teams drill” or the SST.
• Pooch Punts – “AX”
This is a short punt from a field goal alignment designed to surprise the defense, and possibly confuse them into making a mistake with the punt. The punt, if not field should pin the opponent deep – typically inside the 10-yard line.
• Fire Call These are plays that come off of mishandled or poor snaps. These are “automatic” fakes, and reaction, with execution is the key to success.
• Fakes Fake field goals can become an offense unto itself. These typically will take on the personality of the coach, as this is an area of creative expression. These can include outright trickery to fundamentally sound offensive plays. Regardless of the approach, fakes must be practiced until execution is perfect. Then it is up to the head coach to make the call.
• Free-kick This is an attempt to score points after a fair catch has been made.
This area of special teams play requires an equal effort in scouting and pre-game communication. We will review every field goal or Try defense that we have off our opponent. The primary objective is to reinforce our protection scheme, and prepare the players for where they can expect pressure. However, we always have a fake in the game plan, and scouting is the only effective way to match the fake to the opponent. The following is our scouting checklist:
• What is their defensive alignment?
o Do they stay in their base defense, goal line defense, or special alignment for the field goal or Try attempts?
• Where do they like to bring pressure?
o Off of the edge, in the middle or in gaps?
o Do they use a push or stunt approach?
• Do they have a vertical leaper in the middle?
• Have they rushed all eleven ever?
o Do they show eleven and then back off?
• Evaluation of personnel:
o Do their players take these plays off?
o Are there any players that consistently loaf?
o Is there a match-up that we can create and take advantage of?
On game night, our kicking coach plays a critical role. He is responsible for communication with the offensive coordinator and head coach. He must let them know how the placekickers are kicking on this night. Specifically:
• How deep is the placekicker kicking off of the kicking tee?
o How does the accuracy look?
• What is the range of the field goal kicker?
o What yard line does that ball have to get to be sure of a successful kick?
o What yard line does that ball have to get to for the kicker to have a chance?
o What yard line puts the kicker out of his range?
• Which side of the field is the kicker better from?
o How is he kicking from the hash marks, and middle?
o Where should the ball be in order to assure success?
• How are the long snapper and holder working together?
• What is the get off time?
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.