Jesse James and Wyatt Earp Punt Returns

The predominant protection scheme used today is the “spread punt” where the long snapper and personal protector have the A-gap. The track to the block spot is vertical, and then bends to the block spot. As such the middle pressure approach is tailor made for the middle return. The mirrored alignment can stretch (horizontally) the protection and will provide excellent attack angles for the schemes. The goal of the middle return is to divide the coverage left and right, opening up a north-south lane for the returner. Therefore, the base scheme is a pressure-hold up, and middle return which we call “Jesse James”. The reasons include:

• The best punt block teams are usually good return teams because it quickens the punter’s rhythm to create shorter punts, line drive punts and shanks. The punt team must spend more time on protection and be slower to release into coverage.
• This is an easy scheme to teach and practice since the players can work on their skills individually, and starts with the 3-point punch which our players work on every day.
• This is a north-south scheme, so there are fewer negative plays with returners trying to hit the wall, or blocks in the back.

The following is a recap of our base punt returns schemes that come after pressure.

• Jesse – after Jesse James is used with middle pressure and a middle return using a “punch, wheel and shadow” blocking technique. This style of return, though designed to initially hit the middle, can turn into a sideline return. This is our base scheme.
• Wyatt – after Wyatt Earp is used with pressure from the right (eaRp), but a picket return opposite the pressure. We add an “orange” for a pressure left, return right.

 

JESSE JAMES

Key coaching points for the Jesse James return include:

• Sell the rush – make everything look the same as a block with the get-off, low pad level and then track to the block spot if you break clear.
• Transition – when you feel the blocker coming to you to make contact, shoot your inside hand to the blocker’s breastplate to balance up.
• Hold-up – Time equals yards. We give our returner the maximum fielding cushion by delaying the release of the coverage. Keep a wide base with the hands inside on the breastplate of the blocker; hands above your eyes; shuffle your feet to maintain position. Block him where he wants to go – further than he wants to go. Release him outside if, possible, but not critical.
• Trail – After the release, run on the hip of the opponent. If you lose him on his release downfield, run a midpoint path between your man and the returner. Focus on the hip as you get to the returner so that you may see him come to balance.
• Fit and Finish – When the cover man comes to balance to the returner, shoot your hand across his inside pad and reassume blocking position. Turn your hips inside to make him go over the top of the block.

PRESSURE MIDDLE – RETURN MIDDLE: “JESSE” JAMES

Coaching Points

• Each player must know where the block spot is.

• Any player that breaks clear heads to the block spot.

• Punch, Wheel and Shadow – PWS

• Time equals yards.

• Excellent versus fakes because each player is putting their hands on an offensive player.

• Pull #2 out early to help with a gunner on either side.

 

Position Technique
C Corners are aligned 5 yards off with their outside foot to the gunners’ inside foot. Corners are responsible for the gunners (man) and will use a shadow technique to ride gunners outside. The alignment and techniques can change based upon the scouting report.
1  Align in a 9-technique; attack with PWS. Responsible for wing in case of fake. Make the defender go over the top once the returner has declared.
2  Align in a 5-technique; attack with PWS. Responsible for the punter on fakes. Make the defender go over the top once the returner has declared.
3 Align in the B-gap; attack the gap with a low pad level attempting to break clear to the block spot or occupy the protector. Responsible for the punter and protector on fakes.
4 Align in a 2i-technique; attack with PWS. Be ready to collision an inside trap.
Returner  Field all punts, except those beyond the 10-yard line. Make the first defender miss – then north-south.


PRESSURE MIDDLE – RETURN MIDDLE: “JESSE” JAMES

Coaching Points

• Same coaching points as above.

• The base alignment versus a “big butt” is adjusted to attack the gaps for a middle return.

• Defenders in the gaps are based upon the game plan.

• Players that get through will use the punch, wheel and shadow on the “shield blockers

Position Technique
1 Align in a 6-technique and use punch, wheel and shadow (“PWS”) technique. Responsible for the man on a fake.
2 Align in a 4-technique; attack with PWS. Make the defender go over the top once the returner has declared.
3 Align in the B-gap and attack gap with a low pad level attempting to break clear to the block spot or occupy the protector with PWS.
4 Align in a 2-technique; attack with PWS. Make the defender go over the top once the returner has declared.
5 Align in the A-gap and attack gap with a low pad level attempting to break clear to the block spot or occupy the protector with PWS.
Returner  Field all punts, except those beyond the 10-yard line. Make the first defender miss – then north-south.

 

PRESSURE RIGHT – RETURN LEFT: “WYATT’ EARP

Coaching Points

• This is a return opposite pressure.

• Returner must stay between the numbers and hash, otherwise the sideline pins them with no additional open space to work with.

• The double can be switched to block the best coverage player – wing, tackle or guard.

• Punch, release and wall – PRW.

• Fours are responsible for run fakes.

• An “Orange Wyatt” changes this to a pressure left, return right.

Position Technique
C Corners are aligned at 5 yards. Corners are responsible for the gunners (man), pressure side will use a shadow technique to ride gunners outside; return side will use an aggressive “bump & run” technique. Run with the gunners and be ready to wall them.
1 Align outside wing; return side attack wing with PWS. Pressure side, step forward, and cross behind #2 in the C-gap. If clear, take a path to the block spot. Pressure side responsible for punter on fakes.
2 Align in a 6-technique; return side, double with #3 keeping coverage player on the LOS with punch, release and wall (“PRW”) technique releasing (15-20 yards) to wall backside pursuit. Pressure side, attack wing with PWS, occupying to allow #1 to break behind untouched. Have wing on fakes.
3 Align in a 4-technique; attack with PWS. Return side double with #2, then release (15-20 yards) to the middle to wall backside pursuit. Pressure side attack, B-gap with low pad level, if clear path go to block spot, otherwise work to a depth of 2 yards and then sprint to hash working for 5 yards apart.
4 Align in a 2i-technique; attack gap with a low pad level attempting to break clear to the block spot. If blocked, use PRW technique. Return side is the lead (top) of picket, so get to 20 yards; pressure side works for 5 yards apart, along the hash.
Returner  Field all punts, except those beyond the 10-yard line. Make the first defender miss – then north-south, and then run between the numbers and the hash.

 

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.

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