Kick-Off Return

Kickoff Return Axioms

• After 10-yards, it is a free ball. It must be handled. (Also applies to punt on kickoffs after safety).
• Captain: Count team in huddle.
• See ball off tee
• Know approximate distance and direction of ball before executing block.
• Returners: Use judgment on handling and returning ball from end zone. 4.0 second rule.
• Returners must have complete knowledge of Muff Rule:
– Ball muffed in field of play rolls into end zone:
• You may down it in end zone for touchback.
–Ball muffed in end zone and recovered in end zone:
• You may down it.
–Ball muffed in end zone rolls into field of play must be recovered.
–Ball caught in field of play but brought back into end zone must be run out.
• Returners: Follow course of return after 5 yards straight up field.
• Know your double return assignments should the ball be kicked opposite.
• Returners: Run hard and reckless.
• Returner that doesn’t field the ball must be an effective Blocker.
–Free ball after 10-yards.
–Finish!…Means touchdowns.
–Get deep fast with good drop angle.
–Always be aware of wind factor, directions, and squibs.
–Anticipate onside.
–Returner always sets Pick.
–Don’t block below the waist.
•Returners: Practice sound fundamentals and good field awareness.
–Catch all kicks. Do not let the ball hit the ground. Do not run a dropped football out of the end zone. Any kickoff into the end zone must be covered. If you bring the ball out of the end zone, you cannot step back into it (safety).
–Key Kicker’s alignment and approach to the ball. Anticipate corner kick. Know Kicker’s tendency.
–Field squib balls as soon as possible.
–Keep heels on the goal line; any step or steps back puts you into the end zone with no question.
–Know the wind and stadium reflections.
–Don’t play the ball any closer than 2-yards from the sideline, unless coming straight down (Alert…sideline hash marks).
•No Penalties…Good Field Position is Crucial To The Success of Our Offense!



1. Average 23 yards a return
2. Score or set up a score
3. Narrow down returns for the game plan (wedge, kick-out, sideline) or (5 up or 6 up schemes)
4. Find the weakness and attack
5. Personnel is critical with your front line players.
6. Practice blocking techniques through drill work that stimulate game situations
7. Find returners that are north and south runners. Sometimes your best running backs and recieversare the best kick-off returners.
8. We use man portectionso if your guy twists you have him no matter what.
9. We count 1 through ten. Starting on return side.



  • HUDDLE: Always huddle before the kickoff. On the sidelines, the coach and the captain will check for 11 men and give the type of return. Center “ALERT FOR ONSIDE KICK.” Block in front and above the waist!!
  • Focus…Head up …Eyes on captainLT LFB RR RFB RTE
    Coach LR
  • All say “Ready” and clap hands
  • REMINDERS:-Center: Offset yourself from the kicker so the ball will not hit you. Shorten up drop zone on all squibs. Do not clip or block below the waist.-Front Line: Check ball on the tee, tilt, and laces. Be alert for surprise onside kicks. Take the ball off the tee for distance and direction

    -Back Line: Key ball on the tee and kicker’s alignment and approach. Get to the block alignment as dictated by kickoff . Field any short kicks in front of your position. Don’t clip or block below the waist. Don’t back up to field the ball.

    -Make sure of leverage on the block dictated by the return and kick position




5 UP

Front Line:

Get into a good football position with knees bent facing forward at the kicker with your hands on your knees. (See ball kicked.)


LT: Top of numbers at 48 yard line. LG: ON the hash at 48 yardline.

CENTER: Depends on where the kicker aligns. Off-set 3 yards left or right depending on game plan at the 48 yard line.

RG: On hash at 48 yard line.
RT: On top of numbers at 48 yard line.

Technique: See the ball kicked before leaving. Weight should be on front foot to field a surprise onside or slow squib.

  • Contact should be made between the 35-25 based on kick and return.
  • Block shoulder that forces the defender to take the backdoor approach
  • Maintain Contact
  • Finish Blocks


Get into a good football position with knees bent facing kicker. Make your count quickly so there is no question on who you are responsible for. See the ball kicked.

LE: Align on the 35 yard line or deeper based on game plan, at the top of the numbers.

RE: Align on the 35 yard line or deeper based on game plan, at the top of the numbers.

Technique: The technique will vary with the ends depending on the scheme we are running. (wedge, cross, double team, kick in or kick out)


Get into a good football position with knees bent facing the kicker. Make your count quickly so there is no question on who you are going to block. See the ball kicked.

LW: Align on the left hash at the 15 yard line or based on game plan.

RW: Align on the left hash at the 15 yard line or based on game plan.

Technique: The technique will vary depending on what schemes we are running. (wedge, cross, double team, kick in or kick out)


Alignment for the returners will vary depending on the kicker. Their base alignment will be three yards outside the hash on the goal line. Position yourself with your heels on the goal line, this will aid your awareness around the end zone – use the 4.0 rule

Technique: The technique will vary depending on what schemes we are running. (wedge, cross, double team, kick in or kick out)

Communication Calls:


You You You Go Go Go

Stay Stay Stay

Both returners need to be loud so the ends & wings can hear. Off returner is responsible for making sure the ball is secure.



-Receiver:  You have a great responsibility. You are in a position to make a “Big” contribution to our offense and be involved in an exciting play – one that gives the returner and opportunity to score. Be alert mentally and relaxed physically, But turn it on!

-Before ball is kicked: Know our call and wind and field conditions. Toss grass into the air and/or look at the flags to test the wind.

-Fielding the ball: Break for the ball as soon as you get the direction off the tee. Break at full speed while reading the distance of the ball. Get your body behind the ball and “Fine Tune” your feet. Keep your body square to the L.O.S. while keeping the ball in front of you. Bend slightly at the knees and the waist. Get you hands out where your eyes can see them (tie an imaginary string from your eyes to your hands). Do not extend you arms away from you body; keep you elbows in and use your forearms and your chest to form a pocket. Catch the ball with your hands, focus on the tip of the ball (even though it’s end-over-end) and catch it! Try to catch the ball about shoulder height so you can soften the reception and bring the ball in. Always tuck the ball away before running.



  • Front Five: Alignment: Straddle the –46-yard line. Position: Follow your numbers rules and always favor the small number. Always face Kicker and read the ball off his foot; adjust to any approach or motion you see. Field the ball only if it is coming to you and you can handle it. Never try to field the ball if it is on your outside; mishandled balls tend to bounce back toward our opponents. If ball goes through front line, always wedge in front of the ball one player over in that direction.
  • Techniques/Stances: Good two-point stance, foot shoulder-width with your weight on both balls of your feet. Hand should be down inside your legs, thumbs out, and elbow in. Shuffle laterally to position yourself to field the ball or block.
  • Fielding the Ball: Only field the ball if it is coming to you and you can handle it, or the ball is slightly inside of you. Never try to handle the ball if kicked to you outside. If ball is bouncing, field it at its highest point. Catch the ball first, then protect it with your body by bringing it into your stomach and surrounding it with both arms. Hit the ground, putting your body between the ball and the defender. If the ball is not going to travel 10-yards, yell poison.
  • If ball is traveling on the ground to you, don’t jump on to it; field ball by bending your knees – not your waist – and bring the ball to you. Always read ball off of the ground. Allow all line drives to go through. Don’t hesitate to field any balls.
  • Tackles: You can never be out-manned. Split #1 and #2 to your side, favor #1’s inside foot. Any motion, slide to keep your position. *If the ball is kicked to your outside, work it out of bounds or block the first player outside.
  • Guards: Split #3 and #4, always favor #3. Any motion, slide to keep your position yourself to block in front.
  • Center: Play heads up on #6. If ball is kicked to your outside, let it go and position in front to block.
  • Ends – R/L: Alignment is the +45. Playside End Position yourself outside the tackle, favor #1. We want you with the ball. If the ball comes to you, you have time so field the ball cleanly, don’t panic. If the ball is on your outside, field it or help it go out of bounds. Backside End placed between the guard and tackle.
  • Fullbacks: Alignment is on the +45-yard line. Do not cross over the 50- yard line until the ball is kicked. Position yourself between the center and guard to your side If any motion, slide laterally to keep your position. If you get a shift to the opposite side of you, cover the hole. Play head up on the ball, protect the chute.
  • Left Returner: Alignment will be the +45. Position yourself between the guard and tackle on the playside If there is a shift we will slide over. Play head up on the ball, protect the chute
  • Right Returner: Alignment should be +20. Position yourself according to the ball placement and the Kicker’s alignment and approach. If ball is kicked on the ground, get up field to become our safety. Field any ball behind the front ten. The ball is live. Shot attempts can be fair caught.

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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