The kickoff team can set the tone at the beginning of the game, or continue the momentum set by a score. Kickoff coverage requires players who play with reckless abandon. Additional characteristics of special teams’ players include unselfishness, team oriented, courageous and enthusiastic. As coaches, we must keep from confusing them with “technical sophistication”. The key components to kickoff coverage are speed and the ability to execute an open-field tackle. The kicker is a big part of the process and as such must be very precise and consistent in hang-time and location of the kick. Great plays and big hits are set-up by the kicker.
Our Kickoff Team goals include:
Keep or establish the momentum with a big hit on the ball carrier.
Get the football back with a turnover fumble, recovery of a directional kick, or recovery on an onside kick.
Pin the opponent inside the 20-yard line or on a directional kick hold the returner to 5 yards.
This is a very important process. Teams that huddle, but break the huddle before the officials signal the ball “ready for play” create NO stress or requirement for adjustments by the return team. The reason is the ball cannot be put into play until the referee signals “ready for play”.
Therefore, the kick return team does not need to adjust their alignment because the kickoff team is in their spread formation when the ball is signaled ‘ready for play”; i.e., the kickoff team can only kick the ball once the referee signals “ready for play”.
However, when a team is huddled when the ball is ready for play, it forces the return team to adjust their return alignment (compress it) in case
of an onside kick, or a possible kick from the huddle formation. If the return team does not adjust, they can very easily be out-numbered with an easy recovery for the kickoff team.
Traditional kickoff coverage schemes talk about lane responsibilities as the players work through the “run & read zone” and the ‘avoidance zone”, and then converge in the “contact zone”. Not only does this approach create a “technical sophistication” for the players, but also it presents a solid wave of defenders for the return team. If the return team breaks the wave, then the safety defenders come into play.
We designed a coverage scheme that has “Bullets”, “Alleys” and “Contain”. This creates efficiency in preparing our back-ups. We can get three back-ups for each position because a bullet is a bullet regardless of where they align. Therefore we do not need to have two complete SWAT Teams because the positions are interchangeable. As such, when injuries occur the back-ups have gotten plenty of repetitions, and there is no confusion in their mind as to their coverage responsibilities.
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. Jerry 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.