Kickoff Schemes to Evaluate

There are the various kickoff schemes that we evaluate each year.  The schemes are very simple for our coverage personnel; avoid early, run through late while converging on the football.  However, the types of kickoffs installed are a direct function of our kicker’s ability to execute the required kicks for each scheme and our opponents return schemes and personnel.  We want to vary our kickoff spots, from the left to the right hash, but if the kicker has difficulty kicking from one side, we will not force this upon the player.  Our kickers will practice all of their kicks each week, but will have points of emphasis based upon the scouting report.  Also, we use High School rules, the hash marks are equal thirds, so we typically do not kickoff from the middle of the field, but could easily use this kickoff spot depending upon our kicker’s abilities.  The following are the schemes:

  1. Deep Right or Left
    The kicker’s aiming spot is nine yards inside the boundary, inside the five yard line.  The kicker’s skill level will determine whether or not they will use hang time (high kick) or a driving kick that will skip into the end zone.
  1. Crossfield Right or Left
    The kicker’s aiming spot is the twenty-five-yard line (thirty-yard line for college), five yards inside the boundary.  The kicker will use a high kick and attempt to put backspin on the ball.
  1. Pop Right Middle or Left
    The kicker’s aiming spot is the twenty-five-yard line (thirty-yard line for college), five yards inside the boundary.  The kicker will use a high kick and attempt to put backspin on the ball.
  1. Short Right or Left
    The kicker’s aiming spot is the forty-yard line (forty-five-yard line for college), five yards inside the boundary.  The kicker will use a slight arching kick, with backspin.
  1. Squib – Right, Middle, or Left
    These are low kicks meant to skip along the ground making it difficult to field, or set-up a return.
  1. Surprise Onside
    This can be extremely demoralizing to an opponent, regardless of when you execute it; i.e., at the start of the game, after half time, or after a score.  However, it can put your defense in poor field position if unsuccessful.  As such, we decide whether a surprise onside kick is a possibility based upon our scouting reports.  They can be used versus specific return alignments, but are typically directed toward a player that bails early before the ball is kicked.  There are two types of schemes used; (1) “Killer” is executed where the kicker recovers their own kick, or (2) “Surprise Onside” – kicked toward the boundary to a location voided by a coverage player.
  1. Save-the-Game [“Onside Kick”]
    • Boundary
      This is the classic onside kick, aggressively attacking, looking for a bounce.  This is always directed toward our sideline because we can position a coach to provide a visual reference for the kicker.
    • Quail Right or Left
      Based upon scouting, this is intended to take advantage of an opponent that over-shifts personnel to handle the onside kick, or their personnel is bunched too close together.
    • Pin Ball
      This is a low driving kick intended to bounce off of a player.
  1. Free-kick
    Whenever a team uses a fair catch to field a kick (whether a free-kick or a scrimmage kick), they have the option to execute a free-kick.  As a matter of fact, if a free-kick, after a fair catch is kicked through the uprights, the kicking team is awarded three points.  The defense can have a significant impact on this play if they will keep the opponent’s offense backed up deep when they are pinned up near the goal line.  We practice this point every week as part of our preparation script.  Not specifically for the three-points, but to make a point of the importance of field position.
  1. Kickoff After a Safety
    When a safety is given up, the team yielding the safety must kick the ball from the twenty-yard line.  All of the rules governing kickoffs apply, except that the kick can either be a punt, a place kick from a tee or a drop kick.
  1. Cluster Kickoff
    The “cluster kickoff” alignment is becoming increasingly popular.  This style of kickoff has the ten coverage players lined up or in a huddle.  As the kicker approaches the huddle, he will turn and run toward the teed-ball kicking it.  The coverage personnel will begin to run as soon as the kicker turns to approach the ball.  The coverage personnel will then spread out into their coverage lanes.  We do not use this style or formation to kick-off because of the directional nature of our schemes.  However, it is included in the manual.

These rules were written with the National Federation of State High School Associations Rules.  There is a difference in the alignments for a free-kick between the High School Association Rules and College Rules.  College rules require that at least four players are aligned on either side of the kicker.  As such, many of the kickoff alignments and onside kick alignments must be modified to comply with college rules.  Therefore, when kicking off from a hash you should exchange the alignments of the Bullet and the Alley to the boundary, and slide the Wedge player to the boundary.  This will give you four players to boundary.  When executing an onside kick, from a hash, slide a bullet and alley to align with the contain defenders.


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