The following information concerning Special Teams which we call “Special Teams for Special People” was once shared with me and an approach I have always taken when coming to installing and coaching all phases of the kicking game. A programs special team’s approach and philosophy should be based upon “controlling the football” and “controlling field position”. Simply put, when we have the football, we want to keep it until we score, and when we don’t have the football we want to get it back. Special teams play is no different – error free execution will yield terrific results. As such, we must have sound SPECIAL TEAMS that create positive sudden changes. We define sudden changes, whether positive or negative as loss of possession (turnovers) or scores, whether by touchdown, field goal or safety.
We use an aggressive, physical approach to special teams play, yet require a high standard of execution from the players. This requires our coaches to use practice time efficiently preparing the players for every potential situation that may occur on game night. When the players are prepared, they can perform allowing the team to win the “hidden yardage”. The hidden yardage is the yardage gained by our kickoff and punt returns less the yardage gained by our opponent’s kickoff and punt returns.
Special teams are mostly based off of great effort. We always want the very best players on as many special teams as possible. We must have special team’s starters before we can have any offensive and defensive starters. We want to breed a culture of great effort on special teams. The head coach and or in most cases the special teams coordinator will be in charge of all aspects of the special teams and will delegate to the staff a special team assignment.
We always want to keep each team very simple but complicated to our opponent, allowing our athletes to have very little room for assignment error but plenty of room to be successful. We want to play fast and physical, always emphasizing big plays and changing field position to our favor.
Practice time for special teams will be maximized each day. We will have at least 6, 5 minute periods. We will also have very little standing around, whether working drills or doing live reps; effort, hard work and constant movement will be emphasized.
All of our special teams, whether it’s a kick-off or kick-off return, are “attack-oriented”. We are looking to break games open, score touchdowns, force turnovers, give the offense and defense good field position. We believe that our schemes must be efficient for our players in terms of design, practice and execution, yet a burden to our opponents. As such, we are not going to line-up and execute the same schemes week after week. The teaching progression is a building block approach. This keeps it simple for your players, yet complex for your opponent. Our schemes are designed to create some confusion and doubt as to what to expect.
The following are a few keys that are crucial to SOUND special team’s play that put us in a position to win the hidden yardage by plus 20 yards:
Concentrate and know assignments
Know the rules
Be aware of situations and the impact on the game
Know your opponent – what will they do or need to do
Aggressive, Physical Play
Pride – desire to compete
Joy – attitude of the heart
Effort – hustle to the whistle
Precise skills – all players must work to improve their required skills
Block and tackle – daily focused attention
Special teams’ strategy is very simple. We want our athletes playing fast and hard which can only be achieved when our players want to play aggressively with vision and effort. We want our opponents to see physical play and big hits, whether in person or on tape. Therefore, whether we are designing, practicing or executing the kicking or return game, we measure them both by the following guidelines:
Control field position
Keep or get the football
Protect or gain field position
Win hidden yardage by plus 20 yards
Control the football
Play with discipline and vision
40 yards of field position change on a possession change
Block a punt or kick
Cause a turnover
Down a punt inside the 10-yard line
Successful onside or defense of an onside kick
successful fake or stop an opponent fake
Play the Game Thursday
The following information is our “Play the Game Thursday” in which we cover all possible game scenarios. The goal is to run players in and off the field versus game situations so that our players are alert and focused.
1. KICK OFF COVERAGE (Regular Kick)
2. DEFENSE (-35, -46)
3. PUNT RETURN take it to the house
4. PAT/FG Unit
5. KICK OFF COVERAGE (Directional Kick)
6. DEFENSE (RED ZONE -18)
7. FG BLOCK (-16)
8. KICK OFF RETURN
9. OFFENSE (-15) We run an offensive play
10. BASE PUNT (Penalty)
11. TIGHT PUNT (-10)
12. TIGHT PUNT (-6 / Take a Safety)
13. KO AFTER SAFETY
14. DEFENSE (-48)
15. PUNT RETURN
16. OFFENSE (-30) We run an offensive play
17. PAT BLOCK
18. HANDS TEAM
19. DEFENSE PREVENT
20. KO (ONSIDE LEFT HASH/MIDDLE)
21. 2 MINUTE OFFENSE (+45) we run 3 plays with the idea of getting it into the end zone.
22. HURRY UP FIELD GOAL (+15)