KICKING GAME – FIELD GOALS
All attempts at kicking the ball through the uprights are important plays because they involve a specific attempt to score points. There are three situations when these types of attempts occur: (1) field goal attempt, (2) point-after-touchdown (“Try”), and (3) a free-kick after a fair catch. This post will deal with Field Goals. (Kicking Game – SWAT Team) discussed the Free-kick.
The Try and field goal attempts require more consistent precision than any other aspect of the kicking game. The kickers close proximity to the long snapper (“center”), and defenders create a play that happens very quickly – approximately 1.5 seconds. Not only must the snap be crisp and accurate, but the holder must catch the snap and place it in the precise spot for the kicker, either on the ground (college & pro) or on a tee (high school & youth). The kicker must then execute the kick through the uprights.
Our basic philosophy is protection. Most of our live work is done in a half-line situation. For example, in our base alignment, which we call “Wings” this would be left (includes left wing to the center), middle (includes tackle to tackle) and right (includes center to the right wing). This allows us practice versus a rush of six or seven in a controlled setting. We drill the protection techniques versus all out rushes, from two defenders in each gap, to off the edge twisting schemes. In general, we need to protect against interior stunts, corner stunts, and attempts to draw the linemen off sides.
There is no question that the field goal or Try attempts create or continue momentum. A successful field goal is a scoring conclusion to an offensive position, and many times is a game winner. Whereas the Try is just another dagger into the body of the opponent after six-points have been posted to the scoreboard. Our goals in this area include:
• No blocked attempts.
• Get off time of 1.5 seconds.
• Maintain discipline and focus:
o No penalties.
o No missed assignments.
• 100% success on all point-after-touchdowns.
• Always score points whenever the ball gets to the 25-yard line:
o Offensive touchdown, or
o Field Goal
Constantly drill and talk about the importance of all attempts. All unsuccessful attempts are related to a mental breakdown, whether in protection, the hold, or the kick. A momentary lapse can cost the team a victory – do not let that happen.
Coaching Point: I have seen coaches chase the almighty one point after a missed Try early in the game. They go for two points score after score. This can, and usually does in a competitive game, come back to haunt the team. Get your kicker refocused, and make the next Try. The two point decisions should be made in the fourth quarter of games!
We do not huddle for field goal or Try attempts. The protector will make the calls alerting the players how to align. We feel that this adds stress to the defense because they cannot huddle themselves to regroup. Instead they must be prepared to play the down. The get off time should be 1.5 seconds. This requires precise execution by three players, the center, the holder and the kicker. These three players should work on their own and not in a team environment until they can successfully achieve that objective. The protection scheme is based upon building an impervious wall, and extending the protection cone. If there are blocks off the edge then evaluate your protection scheme or personnel.
We try to keep our personnel changes to a minimum on our field goal and Try attempts. This shortens the amount of time that it takes the unit to line up.
Kicker: The kicker is responsible for his tee, if one is allowed by rule. When they bring it onto the field, they will set their tee at 7⅓ yards behind the line of scrimmage (“LOS”). If the ball must be kicked from the ground, without a tee, the kicker will mark the spot for the holder with the kicking foot.
Here is a brief kicker’s checklist:
• Bring your tee out, if you use one.
• Pick the spot, 7⅓ yards behind the center, or offset if necessary because of field position or a hash mark kick.
• Kicker is the left safety on coverage.
COACHING POINT: The reason we select 7⅓ yards is to move our kicker out of the rut that is typically on the 10-yard line for PATs. The extra foot does not add any material time to the kick, but certainly provides better footing for our kicker.
Holder: The holder must call out the alignment – wings, stack or gate. Though the kicker is responsible for setting the tee, or marking the spot to place the ball, the holder must confirm that the spot is 7⅓ yards behind the LOS. The ball should be set 7⅓ yards behind the center, possibly offset depending upon the kick. The holder will keep his eyes on the kicker until he signals that he is ready. Only then will the holder turn his eyes to the snapper. Once the holder turns his head to the center, they will raise his near arm (reaching) and yell “ready”. This signals the snapper that the kicker is ready. The center can snap the ball at any point after the set call, but preferably after a one-second pause after the “ready” call. The snap should be directed at the holder’s outstretched hand. After the snap, the center must get his head up, butt down with a solid base.
The holder will place his front knee down, with his back foot two inches behind the tee or kicking spot. This is the safest position for the holder. In addition, this position creates a backstop in case of a bad snap. Working with the Specialists for more information on coaching the holders.
Here is the Holder’s checklist:
• Align on the spot picked by the kicker and confirm distance from the LOS.
• Make sure there are eleven players on the field.
• Make sure that the kicker and players are ready, then call “ready”.
• Catch the ball, spot it (put it on the tee, if one is used), rotating laces, if necessary, quickly and precisely.
• Holder is the right safety on coverage.
Snapper: The center (long snapper) will take his stance first. The rest of the offensive linemen align off of the center. The center must practice to develop a perfect snap to the holder. The key is to keep the hips down while sliding the heels back toward the holder. The offensive line (guards, tackles and ends) will use a 3-point balanced stance using a shoulder-width base. The line splits should be foot-to-foot, but can expand to six inches based upon the size and strength of the players. The body alignment should put the linemen’s helmet at the bottom of the centers numbers. This allows the linemen to see the ball. If a team likes to use a middle rush, you should move the linemen up where their helmets are aligned with the back tip of the football.
Coaching Point: We have found that by putting the linemen in a 3-point stance, it allows them to explode up “through the window” delivering blows as opposed to absorbing blows when in a 2-point stance.
Guards: On the snap, take a quick six-inch spike step behind the center’s foot. Brace the center’s near hip while striking up through your blocking zone (A-gap). Do not move the outside foot. If there is no defender in the A-gap, still brace the center’s hip.
Tackles: On the snap, take a quick six-inch spike step behind the guard’s foot. Brace the guard’s outside leg while striking up through your blocking zone (B-gap). Do not move the outside foot. If there is no rush in the B-gap, strike with your outside arm to help the end.
Ends: The ends will use a 3-point stance with the inside foot aligned with the near heel of the tackle, using a shoulder-width base. They must be able to see the ball. On the snap, take a quick six-inch spike step behind the tackle’s foot. Keep the outside foot in place. Stay low and punch the inside gap with the inside hand and shoulder. Punch the outside gap with the outside hand.
Wings: The wings will line up with their inside foot behind the groin of the end. Their depth is measured by an arm’s length from the end. They are in a 2-point stance, knees bent with their feet parallel. This allows them to stay square to the LOS; however some teams will align the wings at a 45°. The butt is down, and head up. They can rest with their hands on their knees, but on the snap step out three to six inches with both feet, while violently throwing the arms out. The steps are important because they provide power for the punch. The inside arm should push the inside gap rusher back into the LOS. Do not let the inside rusher go free, but do not step down shortening the distance for the outside rusher (“1”). Keep your eyes on #1, and time your punch with the outside arm pushing him outside. The punch should be executed through the inside number, while dropping the outside foot if necessary for more power. It is important to keep the weight over the balls of the feet in order to keep the wide rusher from dipping under the punch. If there is a contain rush only, get your hands on the rusher with one or two slide steps after contact. Then push the rusher outside. Feel the inside rusher, while seeing the outside rusher.
Coaching Point: The 45° alignment by the wings is certainly a solution to stopping penetration between the wing and end; however it does shorten the protection cone. Depending upon the size of the linemen, this may not be an issue.
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.