Three yards inside the numbers.
Bottom of the numbers.
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.
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