Coverage and Principles
We will directional kick from either hash, as well as kicking off from the middle of the field. The sideline coach will designate the kickoff alignment when the Kick-off Team huddles along the sideline. This determination is based upon the scouting report and the type of kicks to be used against the particular opponent. When the kicker breaks the huddle on the field, after the referee has signaled the ball “ready for play”, the Kick-off Team will sprint to their appropriate alignment. The Kick-off Team consists of:
“Two Contain Defenders (designated as #1’s)
“Four Bullets (designated as #2 & #3’s)
“Four Alley (wedge busters designates as #4 & #5’s)
The basic alignment places the Contain Defenders four yards from the boundary, with the other players, whether an Alle or Bullet spaced at five yards apart. This alignment will be slightly adjusted based upon the types of kicks being used and the opponent’s return alignment. However, you must be careful when adjusting the Kick-off Team’s alignment so that the directional kick is not given away based upon the alignment.
Contain: Align four yards from the sideline. Their path is straight down the field, maintaining inside shoulder leverage, working to ball depth. Do not open up a running lane by widening. Fight the kick out blocks by playing physical football, using your hands, staying square, and squeezing the ball carrier. If you are on the backside of a directional kick, or the ball is away, then pursuit is no further than the hash until reverse ruled out. Be aware of a crossfield cutback, but attack at ball level using two to three yards of leverage; i.e., keep the ball in front by two to three yards.
Kickoff Coverage Principles
The following is a brief list of coaching points when discussing kick coverage:
- Keep the return team off balance with directional kicks.
- Kick coverage is an all out sprint, however as important as speed, is the desire to make the tackle is more important.
- Know and execute coverage responsibilities – avoid early, run through late. Don’t overrun the ball!
- Alignments should initially defend the field, but once the return has been defined, defense the football.
- It is not a shame to get knocked down, but it is a crime to stay down.
- Locate the ball and converge.
- Maintain an inside shoulder relationship (outside leverage) with the ball carrier and attack him aggressively.
- If you lose your outside leverage on the ball carrier, come to balance as you get to the breaking point in front of the ball carrier in order to make the tackle. Make sure your body is under control, moving your feet in a good football position.
- Wedge defender, or first man approaching the wedge should use up two blockers by attacking a gap between them keeping the pad level low; and force the ball carrier to move laterally.
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.