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Kickoff Coverage

Kickoff Coverage

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Published by mwuw

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Published by: mwuw on Dec 22, 2010
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05/12/2014

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W
hile it is certainly true that every play isimportant during a football game, akickoff is, by nature, one of the most impor-tant. Every offensive coach agonizes overfinding ways to get the ball to his best ath-lete in the open field. The kickoff provides abuilt-in opportunity to do just that, so it isimperative that the kicking team do every-thing possible to limit the opportunity for abig play that can result in a touchdown orgreat field position for the offense.It seems that every year, more and moreteams are “squib” kicking or “pooch” kick-ing the ball to eliminate big returns. Theyare willing to sacrifice field position in orderto avoid the potential for the big play.Thatcertainly is a sound concept, however, thedeep kickoff gives the kicking team achance to pin the opponent deep in theirown territory, something that is generallynot possible on squibs and pooch kicks.For the purposes of this article I will focuson covering balls kicked deep.
Basic Kickoff Coverage System
We number our coverage players fromthe inside out on each side of the kickerfrom one to five respectively (Diagram 1).Our kickoff coverage is based on a “twofunnel system.” After the ball is caught bythe returner, we attempt to form a first fun-nel with two force players (usually L4 andR4) acting as the “outer edges of the fun-nel” and six lane players acting as the“points of the funnel.” Ideally, the forceplayers will restrict the running lane toabout five yards width and as many laneplayers as possible will fill the five yard lane(Diagram 2).The safeties (usually L5 and R5) and thekicker will form the second funnel five yardsbehind the first funnel, in case the returnerbreaks through. Ideally, the safeties will con-strict the running lane for the second funnelto about two yards and the kicker will fill thetwo-yard lane (Diagram 2).
Alignment and Landmarks
On each kickoff, coverage players areassigned landmarks based on where weare trying to kick the ball. Ideally, theselandmarks will create relatively even spac-ing between coverage players (approxi-mately five-yard increments). Prior to thekick, players should align five to eight yardsoff the free kick line, on their landmark andin a two-point stance facing in at a 45-degree angle to the kicker.Landmarks are as follows:
Middle KickL5
Four yards from sideline.
L4
Top of the numbers.
L3
Split the hash & numbers.
L2
On the hash.
L1
One yard inside the goal post.
R1
One yard inside the goal post.
R2
On the hash.
R3
Split the hash & numbers.
R4
Top of the numbers.
R5
Four yards from sideline.
Kick LeftL5
Two yards from sideline.
L4
Bottom of the numbers.
L3
Three yards inside the numbers.
L2
Three yards outside the hash.
L1
Split the hash & goal post.
R1
Split the goal posts.
R2
Split the hash & goal post.
R3
Three yards outside the hash.
R4
Two yards inside the numbers.
R5
Four yards from the sideline.
Kick RightL5
Four yards from the sideline.
L4
Two yards inside the numbers.
L3
Three yards outside the hash.
L2
Split the hash & goal post.
L1
Split the goal post.
R1
Split the hash & goal post.
R2
Three yards outside the hash.
KickoffCoverage
 
Diagram 1: Numbering PlayersDiagram 2: Two Funnel System
 
R3
Three yards inside the numbers.
R4
Bottom of the numbers.
R5
Two yards from sideline.It is important that all coverage play-ers understand that the direction calledin the huddle is only where we areattempting to kick the ball. Since thekicker does not always kick the ballwhere he is aiming, all players mustreact to where the ball is actually kickedas they run down the field.
Covering a Kick
Although coverage assignments for thekickoff team can be switched at times inorder to give the return team different looks, in general L5 and R5 are safeties, L4and R4 are force players and L1, L2, L3,R1, R2 and R3 are lane players.The coaching of kickoff coverage playerscan be broken down into three areas: attack-ing the free kick line; responsibilities beforethe ball is caught; and responsibilities afterthe ball is caught. The following are thecoaching points we use for coverage playersin each phase of kickoff coverage:
Attacking the Free Kick Line (FKL)
Learn the nuances and steps of thekicker in order to ensure that you arrive atthe free kick line as close as possible to thesame time the ball is kicked. While wewould like you to hit the free kick line at fullspeed and at the same time as the kicker,being at full speed is more important. Iwould rather have you at full speed and astep short of the free kick line than at thefree kick line but having to “stutter step” toavoid being offside when the ball is kicked.Above all, do not be offside.
Responsibilities Beforethe Ball is Caught
From the time the ball is kicked until it iscaught by the returner, you should run fullspeed on your landmark attempting to getinside the opponent’s 40-yard line beforethe ball is caught. Be sure to see the move-ment of the returners in order to determinethe path of the ball and to know when it iscaught. Never look up for the flight of theball.If a blocker comes at you prior to the ballbeing caught, then avoid the block (to theeasiest side) and return to your landmarkas soon as possible.When the ball is kicked, all lane playersshould key the five front-line blockers of thereturn team. Be ready for specific blocksbased on their movement.• If a front-five player attacks you, thenyou should avoid him and then get back onyour landmark.• If the front five players drop, then findthe deep people to determine the flight ofthe ball and expect a wedge return. If thewedge develops, then be ready to squarelytake on the blockers.• If you see a front five blocker go acrossto the opposite side, then expect a crossblocking scheme.
Responsibilities after the Ball is Caught1. Force Players:
As a force player, youare the outer edge of the first funnel. Your job is to constrict the running lane allowingthe lane players to make the tackle. Afterthe ball is caught, squeeze to the ball andremain on the level of the returner afterreaching ball depth. As the returner movesup-field, you must work to stay on the samelevel as the ball. This will prevent thereturner from breaking outside your edge ofthe funnel while also preventing him fromslipping between you and the lane players(Diagram 3). Never take an uncontrolledshot at the returner, since the ball must bekept inside the funnel at all costs.
2. Safeties:
The safeties’responsibili-ties are similar to those of the force playersbut are performed in the “second funnel.”Once the ball is caught, close in to the ball,“folding under the force” and establishing“hold position” (five yards behind and two-yards outside the force player).From hold position, if the returnerbounces outside the force player, thencome up and make the tackle (Diagram 4);if he breaks through the first funnel, thenclose in as the outside edge of the secondfunnel and make the tackle (Diagram 5).
3. Lane Players:
Once the ball iscaught, you are what we call “leverage onthe ball,” i.e. you should aim for the nearshoulder of the returner.As the returnerchanges his path, you should adjust so thatyou are always aiming at his near shoulder.Never take a “cut-off angle” by aiming forwhere you think the returner is headed. Cutoff angles just open cutback lanes for thereturner.If a blocker comes at you and the return-er is not threatening your lane, then avoidthe block to the ball side. Since each play-er whose lane is not being threatened willavoid a block to the ball side, spacingbetween lane players will be maintained(Diagram 6).
Diagram 3: Force Players Work Withthe BallDiagram 4: Ball Bounces Outside theForce PlayerDiagram 5: Ball Breaks Through theFirst FunnelDiagram 6: Avoid to the Ball

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