The following approach to special team’s organization is how several different coaches from around the country approach their weekly organization.
It is important to emphasize the importance of special teams. In our program special teams, offense, and defense are all on the same level of importance. That being said, we will put the best guys out there who will have success and more importantly we will spend time during each practice to be properly prepared for the game that week.
As far as staff assignments we break it down as follows:
Offensive Responsibilities are as follows:
WR and RB Coach-KOR: Being that KOR is more of an offensive special teams offensive coaches will be in charge of this. WR coach will have back line and RB coach will be in charge of front line. The WR coach will be in charge of scheme
OL, WR, and QB Coach: FG/PAT: This puts points on the board so definitely an offensive coaches responsibility. OL coach will have front line, WR coach wings, QB coach (also our OC) will have holder and kicker. The OL coach will be in charge of scheme
QB Coach, OL, and RB coach-: Punt: we may do this different but because it is our OC’s call to go for it, fake it, or punt it we let our offense take this. QB coach works with long snapper and punter, the OL coach works with the OL, and RB coach works with gunner’s wings/personal protector. The RB coach will be responsible for the scheme
Defensive responsibilities are as follows:
DB, ILB, OLB, and QB coach: Kickoff- Obviously kickoff is huge for field position for the defense so it makes sense. The DB coach has 1/2 outside guys, OLB has 3/4, ILB coach has 4/5, and QB coach once again works with kickers. The position coaches will work primarily with their position players with this numbering system. The DB coach will be responsible for scheme
DL, ILB, and OLB coach: PAT/FG defense- Keeping points off the board will be defense responsibility. DL coach works with DL, ILB coach works with LB’s, and OLB coach works with the edge players. Most of the time we defend for the fake and LB’s will be responsible for watching fake, while outside guys will twist or go for the block when called and depending on scheme for that week. The OLB coach will be responsible for the scheme.
DB, ILB, WR and DL coach: Punt return- Once again although this is a return and many people treat this as an offensive philosophy we many times will substitute only a few guys and keep our defense on the field. The DB coach will be with the outside guys running with the gunners, ILB will work with LB’s, DL coach with the front, and WR coach works with returner.
We like to use as many capable backups as possible for our special teams for to get young players experience, get our starters a rest, and also let those that work hard see the field. However, many times (especially on certain special teams) we will keep some starters on special team because we feel as though they are that important. On kickoff we put the players who have the most success at running at full speed and breaking down balanced (not many players are successful at that). PAT we get some backup lineman a shot and like i said earlier we keep most our defense out there on punt return.
Our mentality is simple- “Be the hammer and not the nail”. This is for every special team! We want to be aggressive on our pursuit in coverages and we also want to preach staying on and finishing blocks in the return game. We also preach to simply do your job! On kick return our each player has a responsibility and if it is executed properly we now have great field position and/or 6 points.
We have moved our special teams segment to the beginning of each practice because we found that the focus and execution was lacking when we waited to do it later in the practice. It pretty much went against what we were trying to preach as far as the importance we place on special teams. Monday we will install and execute KO and KOR for 30 minutes. Tuesday will be punt and punt return for 30 minutes. Wednesday will be PAT/PAT defense for 30 minutes. Thursday (our walk though) we actually spend more time on special teams than offense and defense, especially KO and KOR. We feel that our punt team is very important, however, we never expect to punt that much. Prepare for the worst and expect the best.
Example Approach to Organizing a Weekly Special Teams Approach
The first thing I expect from our staff is to understand our Philosophy of special teams: we want to be “Special”. That means for the one play our kids will execute each and every time. The second thing we want to do is involve players in the game. We have a roster of 65 to 75 kids. While all of our kids are not “Football Players”, we have a number of kids that are quality players with skills and talents that we must develop and incorporate into our team if we are going to be successful come Playoff time. Our staff will work with player s to develop the necessary techniques to be successful on a given special team and create a great climate of success by sharing the roles and getting kids involved. We will not sacrifice our quality special teams by putting players on the field that cannot be successful, but we will work to get every “starter” off the field by using our back up players and kids that have great talents for our special teams.
The following is our staff break up for Special Teams:
Line (G/T) – We teach a specific “Kick” step in our protection game. This is handled by the Line Coach, we are looking for Defensive End/Offensive Guard/Linebacker types that are physical and can run.
Wings – RB Coach – we want TE or FB types that are physical and athletic.
Gunners – WR Coach, we want fast and great tacklers at this spot.
Long Snapper/Punter – Head Coach (Past Punter) so I take these two spots. Allows for focus on timing, snap, steps and drop. Want to use the talents we have…if we have a banger, then we will kick away and make plays. If we have a kicker that can’t kick for distance, we would add directional kicks and create field position that way.
Personal Protector – QB Coach, we want our Protector to make all line calls, adjustments, and fakes. We give him a Key list that will alert him to what he needs to do every time he aligns.
We use a spread Punt so we can do a better job of counting the box and maximizing our protection game.
Our Alignment is called “Raiders” we want to raid the punter and cause mental and physical “unrest” for the opponent. We have 4 calls for our punt team: Return Right (Pin to the Right Sideline), Left (Pin to the Left Sideline), Safe(Block), and GATA (Get After Their Ass). We want our players to be fast, disruptive and annoying to the opponent. We make a call and align every player on the LOS. We will match the box, if they align everyone in the box then we will have 10 players on the LOS, if they spread punt, then we will have 8 on the LOS.
Our front 8 is coached by our DL coach. We want an aggressive sprinter stance and we teach to attack, wether on a block call or return call, we want our players to attack until the whistle.
Returner – must be an athlete (we have a saying, we want our returner to be “difficult to catch in a phone booth”). This player needs to be fast like lightening, and fearless like thunder. We have our RB Coach instruct all returners.
Corners – DB Coach, we teach a press technique, shuffle, and off safe technique. We want to be physical and push disrupt the path of the opponent.
PAT/FG: we keep this as simple as possible, but we do use a swinging gate on PAT. We want the opponent to have to spend extra practice time going over it and we also want our kids to have some FUN. We allow our holder to make the call for fakes or shift and kick.
Line – OL Coach, we teach a step down, we want our BEEF in the middle.
TE/WB – TE Coach, we want these players to be physical and athletic. We run a number of fakes and want to get the ball to these kids.
Holder – Head Coach, this is our athlete. He is the kid that could play QB, WR, RB, DB, or whatever you needed. We allow for him to control all of the PAT calls and practice the heck out of the snap, hold, and kick phase.
Kicker – Head Coach, I can appreciate the mental approach the kicker takes to the game.
Kick OFF: we will use the kickoff for three things, possession, field position, and “the weakest link”. We will look for areas that the receiving team is not protecting from onside kick opportunities. We have had some great fortune with some kickers that can punch this thing deep into the end zone negating any possible return. Finally, we can attack their weakest link by position kicking.
Bombers: fast, physical, and hitters. Coached by our LB Coach, they will look to run to the ball on contact.
Contain: sure tacklers with good speed. Coached by our DB Coach, they will corral the ball and keep it from getting outside. They are “last chance” players if it pops.
Clean Up: These three players are following the rule of keeping the ball to their inside shoulder and work to avoid first contact and fill on second. They are coached by our Safeties coach.
Safeties: We like to use players that have a knack of avoiding contact or clutter on the football field, and are able to find the football. We want to have the layers coached by the Corners coach.
Kicker – Head Coach, we teach a “Pop-up” onside kick. If the team doesn’t react to our overload (5 players aligned inside the hash to sideline) we will onside. If they overload to our short field, leaving the field exposed by a 5 to 2 mismatch, then we “Roll it” to the field. If they play for an onside kick, we go after the weakest link. If we want to have field position, we will “bang” the ball into the end zone, or deep!
Kick Return: we want to flip field position. We will use a wedge, cross, and directional return.
T/G/C/G/T (Front line) DB Coach, we want athletic hitters. We will teach to “hunt” by taking good angles, breaking down, we want disruption, not big hits or big misses.
Wedge – TE Coach, we are looking for athletic, bulky guys, we don’t do a true “Wedge” return, we want to seek out markers and will look to double team the MDM or #3 from the Right or left side.
Returners – RB Coach, same thing as punt return, we want players that are difficult to corral, catch, hit, or touch. We will teach returners to attack landmarks then find space. We want vertical yards not “Horizontal Headaches”. GET UP FIELD!!!
In looking at the time spent on a weekly basis, we want to focus on at least 2 a day finishing with a comprehensive dress rehearsal on Thursday.
I would break down our time as follows:
Monday’s – Punt/KOR, we would look at using 15 min per team, broken up into drills for skills, then team vs. opponent. For a total of 30 min of work.
Tuesday’s – Raiders (PR) / Kick Off (same as above)
Wednesday’s – PAT/FG, we look for using our FG team on our 2 min Offense drill, using only the snap, hold and kick. PAT is a specific period, and our Field Goal unit ends practice with 8 kicks (4 for 1’s and 4 for 2’s).
Thursday – Dress Rehearsal, we use this period for a 45 min work out on all special teams. We use situations to put our teams in specific worst case scenarios.
The last piece of time is our “Specials period” on Monday’s and Wednesday’s. We use a 10 min period for all specialists to work on the craft.
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.