The punt return is based upon pressure and all of the schemes are built off this. Since we use the defensive unit, we feel that adjustments to last minute alignments and fakes are simple for the players. The techniques used in the mirrored pressure schemes include: blocking punts and blocking coverage players.
The primary purpose of pressure is to block punts, even though there are secondary benefits such as stressing the protection scheme allowing the return blocks to form, or mentally stressing the punter keeping them from executing properly, etc. Blocking punts fall right in line with the punt return’s name – “EFFORT”. Effort and the desire to get to the block spot are critical components to success, and then throw in a little technique and you have the ingredients to block a lot of punts. Blocking punts require a great “get-off” and fundamentals at the “block spot”, including taking the ball off of the punter’s foot.
A good jump (get-off) starts with the stance. Since we drill the “form start” year round, this is the sprinter’s style stance that we use. See Chapter II – Kicking Game – SWAT Team for a description of the form start stance. We want the players to hug the LOS. The hand will be back away from the football about one foot so that when the head extends past the down hand, the helmet is not in the neutral zone. The bottom line – take as much of the football as possible since every inch counts in blocking a punt. The Mike linebacker will yell “see the ball”, a call to remind players to burst on ball movement – only! On ball movement, the front line will explode with a low pad level.
The players must key the football to get a great jump. The snapper’s hands, fingers, and knuckles tighten in the split second before the snap. This action only reveals the intent to snap, not the actual snap. This explosion off the ball only occurs when the snapper actually moves the football.
The players must accelerate out of their stance – just as a sprinter with a low hard charge, raising the pads as they accelerate. If necessary, they must reduce the shoulders (perpendicular) to the ground giving the blockers less surface to grab or hit (called “skinny in the hole”). Since these are defensive players, they are familiar with the rip or swim moves. However, they must work to get running with the pad
level just ahead of the feet to keep proper running form. When the pad level moves too far in front of the feet, the player has a tendency to lose body control and run into the punter.
Finally, the players should not put up their hands until the last second. Raising the hands early slows the speed down. So, only at the last second should they move their hands from waist level to block the kick. The movement of the hands at the last moment allows the player to see that ball – taking the ball off of the punter’s foot.
Scouting and pre-game information must be given to the players to identify the exact location of the block spot. The block spot is typically 1½ yards in front of where the punter’s plant foot lands. The player’s course must put him on a path to put his body directly though the block spot, which will allow him to block the punt, but not rough the punter if he does not get the block.
Coaching Point: If players get knocked off of, or blocked out of the path that will take them past the block spot, they must pull up and gather themselves, and then get into the return. If their path will bring them up short of the block spot, they should keep going because the punter may redirect his punt.
The proper angle to the block spot from the side would put the player in position to pass right in front of the punter’s foot and as he passes being able to touch the punter’s foot. When approaching from the middle, the path should be just off the punter’s kicking foot, which will keep the player from colliding with the punter.
Blocking a punt entails:
• Extend – Extend the arms, including fingers and thumbs, similar to “superman”, and bending at the waist only if necessary. Do not jump for a ball, but a player may layout. The lay out decision is made 3 yards from the block spot and must take the player through the block spot.
• Take it off the foot – Sprint to the block spot only extending the arms at the block moment. The player must have his eyes wide open to take the ball off of the foot of the punter. Do not swat at the ball. In essence, get the ball within the first one foot of travel off of the punter’s foot.
• Finish – The body should cross the block spot and not come in contact with the punter.
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.