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Kickoff Coverages the Penn State Way

Kickoff Coverages the Penn State Way

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04/07/2011

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O
n behalf of Joe Paterno andPennsylvania State University coach-ing staff and players, it is truly an honor andprivilege to have this opportunity to con-tribute to the
AFCA Summer Manual 
.Penn State’s approach to winning is webelieve there are three departments ofplay: offense, defense and kicking. It is ourfeeling that we must win the kicking game.Players and coaches must believe and giveattention to the kicking game because it isone third of the football game. More bigbreaks occur in the kicking game than any-where else. Breaks occur where a team orplayer is not prepared for a situation.Kicking situations should be practiced overand over so that we make these breaksourselves. It is our belief that most closegames are won by the team with the bestkicking game. We will win two more gamesa year if we have a good kicking game.
Special Team Philosophy
Great teams don’t merely have ade-quate special teams. They have specialteams that can break games open, scoretouchdowns, force turnovers, give theiroffense and defense good field position asoften as possible. We want to be attack-ori-ented. We want to be very competitive. Wewant to break it down into little battles thatare fought on every play. We want themfighting until the whistle blows. Once youget those little battles going on, it becomesvery intimidating for the other team.
Elements of a Successful Kicking GameElimination of Mistakes:
Concentrate on assignments. Learn vital rules to take fulladvantage of them. Be aware of the situa-tion. Be aware of what your opponent is try-ing to accomplish.
Intensity:
Refer to every little detail in thekicking game. Must be all out Pride-Hustle-Desire.
Fu n d a m e nta l s :
Precise skills areinvolved. Punters, snappers, holders, place-kickers, must work many extra hours at theirskills. They must concentrate. Distances atwhich holders and kickers must locate them-selves, timing and getting kicks away mustbe worked on tirelessly. The above needsprecise and constant attention.
Personnel Selection
The success of any special team unit isthe selection of the players. We believethat we must play our best players to besuccessful. When we say the best players,we truly mean players who are first teamdefense and offense. We want our best 11on the field at all times. We want a specialteam player who is pure and can play withreckless abandon and not feel restrainedby technical sophistication. Of all theingredients that are considered in theselection of special teams personnel, themost important ingredients a player mustpossess are personal character, unselfish-ness, team oriented, courageous and anenthusiastic winner. These things willmake our special teams successful. Ourki ck off coverage team consist of lineback- ers and defensive backs that are goodopen-field tacklers and that have outstand-ing speed.
Kickoff Coverage and General Information
The kickoff team can set the tone for anentire game or half by making a great playor an exceptional big hit. Remember, thekicker must be a big part of setting thetone, being precise and consistent in hang-time and location of the kick.The only statistic that has real signifi-cance in kickoff coverage is the yard line.Our goal on the kickoff team is not to allowa return past the 20-yard line. Each mem-ber of the kickoff team plays a major role inkeeping the yard lines as low as possible.We can have great kickoff coverage onlyby having:• High, deep kicks.• Proper (directional) kick placementwith appropriate distance.Aggressive, fast reckless coveragepersonnel.• Proper lane distribution.• Proper positioning of safeties and con-tain men at all times.• Speed, speed, speed and more speed• Great second effort.Toughness and hitting.Our major points of emphasis in devel-oping our teams:• Kick placement (location).• Get off.• Speed.Adjustments to the ball.• Beat blocks.• Close and tackle.
MechanicsStance
All turn and face the kicker with yourhands on your knees bent and able to seethe kicker and the ball.
Larry JohnsonDefensive Line and SpecialTeams CoachPennsylvania State UniversityState College, Pa.
 
Kickoff Coverages thePenn State Way
 
Start
The referee will signal the ball readyfor play.The kicker will check both sides to seethat we are ready.• He will lower his hand to signal thecoverage team members the start of hisapproach. From this point on, everyonemust time their approach so that we are atfull stride at the time of the kick (one stepbehind the kicker running full speed).• It is imperative that no one is ever off-side. One and eight are responsible forreminding everyone once we line up to beon side.• Wait until the kicker starts. See him
--
as the kicker starts his cross-over step, rollinto your speed. Do not take a false step.Your approach is the same as the kicker.Time it up. As he hits the ball, you must beat full speed with your eyes up.• The whole unit should hit the line togeth-er like a “steel rod” driven through the unit.We always align the ball two and a halfto three yards off the left hash. We do thisfor two reasons:
1.
we want to limit the fieldspace and
2.
we want to limit the number ofreturns a team can run against us and inmost cases, we see the same return eachweek.You should never let your alignmentinterfere with the kicker’s ability toapproach or see the ball. We ask our kick-er to directional kick aiming for the bottomof the numbers at the five yard line.
Coaching Point:
When we direction-al kick from the hash, number three andfour must be aware of this alignmentand everyone else for timing. From ourbase alignment, we will make individualadjustments all designed to time up kickone yard behind kicker as he kicks theball, running almost full speed. Onceyou learn your proper alignment, studythe place-kicker’s step and approach.Align the same place every time. T h ekey to our success is great timing ands p e e d .
HuddleA.
We will always first, huddle on thesideline with the coach. Players will bechecked and reminders given.
B.
On the field huddle: This will takeplace on the 25 yard line.
C.
The kicker will give the call and sayready, call, clap and everyone will sprint totheir spot for that call.
D.
We have 25 seconds to kick the balloff.
Alignment and Assignment Base1:
Five yards from sideline. Straightdown, maintain outside leverage, do not letthem kick you out.
2:
Five yards from sideline. Straightdown, find the ball, do not let them splityou.
9:
Five yards from outside of hash,Straight down, find the ball. Make the ballcarrier commit in one direction.
3:
On the hash. Straight down the hash,you own it, then get to the ball.
4:
Four yards inside the hash. Straightdown, proceed to the ball , wedge breaker.
5:
Four yards apart, straight down, pro-ceed to the ball, wedge breaker.
6:
On the hash, straight down the hash,you own it, then get to the ball.
7:
Three yards outside of the hash.Straight down, find the ball.
10:
Three yards apart, straight down thefield, find the ball. Make the ball carriercommit in one direction. Rover.
8:
Three yards from the sideline, fullsprint 20 yards, fold behind 6, 7, no furtherthan hash unless ball is committed awayfrom you (maintain leverage).
Kicker:
Kick the ball to the left bound-ary. Become the safety on the left, hash,keep leverage on the ball. There are threezones that you must be concerned about.
Speed and Read Zone:
Sprint downthe field while reading your return key tosee which return the opponent is using, aswell as the direction of the return.
Avoid Zone:
Avoid all blocks to the tailof the opponent, then get back into yourlane except for contain persons; neveravoid blocks to the inside.
Contact Zone:
Attack and play throughall blocks and defeat blocks; cannot getcaught on a side of a blocker in the contactzone. We want to see every player of theopponents knocked down on the kickoff.
Hit the Line like a Steel Rod
Now let’s be more specific and dividethe actual coverage down into the physicalcomponents of kickoff coverage. Kickoffcoverage has four distinct phases. Eachhas a skill that we try to develop andimprove through drills and work in funda-mental techniques. These skills are:
Get Off:
This must be timed with theapproach of the kicker. It includes stance,alignment, proper vision of the ball andimmediate acceleration to maximumspeed.
A. Stance and Alignment:
We havealready described this. We must have prop-er spacing and see the kicker. Utilize a two-point stance with the weight up on balls ofthe feet. As the kicker passes, begin yourtakeoff. Remember we want full speed onthe take off.
B. Proper Vision:
Never lose sight ofthe kicker. Poor vision and timing will resultin an offside penalty. Let the kicker passbefore we take off.
C. Acceleration:
This is as the cover-age men cross the 35 yard line. Accelerateto maximum speed. Keep your eyes downfield. Amaximum burst will allow us tocover the next 45 yards in the shortesttime.
Sprint and Ball Adjustment:
This isthe important skill of running down fieldand making a decision on when to adjustthe course of the run. This decision shouldbe based on the following factors, gameplan and individual techniques will dictatep r i o r i ty.
A. Flight of the Ball:
It is important thatwe look early above our head to see (orfeel) the ball.
B. Location and Direction of ReturnMen:
Find the return specialists. As theyproceed to where the ball is caught
Diagram 1: Base AlignmentDiagram 2: Kickoff Coverage HuddleDiagram 3: Zone Chart
 
(Left/middle/right), they will tell us wherethe ball is located.
C. Set up Back Blocks:
This will give astrong indication as to the type of returndeveloping.
D. Front Line Blocks Set-Up:
Thedirection indicated by the first wave (line) ofblocks. At times, this can be inaccurate,due to a misleading path or technique ofthe blocker. Study them on tape. Know theopponent.
Note:
Proper adjustment will take us tothe correct side of the field in which to stopa return. As we adjust, it is critical that webegin to manipulate the block in front of us.Keep our eyes on a swivel so we can reactto all circumstances.
Beat The Blocker:
As the cover teamcloses the distance as fast as they canbetween themselves and the first wave ofblocks or first blockers (or a blockerapproaches him), they must begin to“manipulate” them. Manipulate the blockerby swerving or weaving using head fakes inthe run, cause the blocker to stop his feet,adjust his course, crossover or create animbalance in his base as he attempts toblock the cover persons. On the approach,using these techniques, slightly widen thebase. This will allow us to go to either sideof him. Contact is necessary.
A. Run past Him:
Avoid, get him off bal-ance by waving, swerving, head fakes, etc.Begin these seven to eight yards from theblocker. If he appears off balance, run rightpast him without any moves.
B. Employ a Shoulder Dip:
Avoid con-tact if possible. Freeze him with a weaveand utilize an arm to the side of the block-er.Try to go around to the side of the kick.Dip and rip as you accelerate by him. If hemakes contact, keep the feet moving. Donot try to shoulder rip if he has latched on.
C. Hand Shiver:
If a blocker makescontact, attack him and get the hands onthe inside of his hands in the number area.Then grab and shrug him aside. Use an“arm over” or “rip by,” drive him back in tothe return and react to the ball. Come toBalance and play off him. He will be off bal-ance when he attacked.
D. Shoulder Drive:
This technique isused against the wedge or double team.Drive your shoulder through the designatedman and force the ball by driving the block-er back. Eliminate forward progress. Useup two blocks.
E. Change up:
Start to come to balanceand then explode by him, stutter step asfast as possible.
F. If You Get Blocked:
You must notstay blocked!
Close:
Close is the movement after wehave beaten the blockers. Take the mostdirect course to the ball. We must make thetackle (or force the direction of the ball).Your distance from the ball will determinethis action. Never get past the ball or deep-er than the ball.
Coverage
The technique utilized in coverage willbe determined by the assignment for thatparticular coverage called. We must havean understanding of the following terms asthey apply to each position and what theresponsibility is, especially if we move therovers around (No. 9 and No. 10). The fol-lowing is an explanation of the key points ofcoverage as we tell members of the PennState coverage team:
Shoulder Men:
As you “sprint” downfield, make your adjustments. Once this isestablished, maintain designated shoulderleverage on the ball carrier (Diagram 4).Attack the blocker if he tries to block youbased on your distance from the ball carri-er.Anything too far away, beat him withspeed, moves, then get back in your lane.
A.
Keep your heap up
--
vision.
B.
Proper shoulder on the ball.
C.
If you are getting blocked, “squeeze”back into your lane. Do not create a seam.Use your hands.
D.
If you get knocked out of your shoul-der leverage, recover and regain it. Secondeffort offsets everything else.
E.
Come to Balance (CTB). Get undercontrol, find the ball and fight off the blockto the ball maintaining proper leverage.
F.
You have to have an aggressive men-tality and be responsible.
Ball Men:
They will be our designated“hit” man. They are expected to make theplay or force it as quickly as possible(Diagram 5). As you sprint down field,make your adjustment. You will usually runinto an immediate encounter.
A.
As soon as the ball is kicked, sneak apeek at the tackle to your side for an “indi-cation” of the type of return. Do not slowdown!
B.
Beat the first line of blockers (speed).
C
. “Avoid” them if you get blockedimmediately.
D.
Keep your head up, eyes on a swivel.
E.
If you are getting blocked, “squeeze”by leaning into the blocker. Don’t careless-ly create a lane. Use your hands to drivethe opponent back.
F.
Go make the play!
G.
By game plan or poor kick, you couldbecome a shoulder man.
H.
You must become very efficient atadjustment technique. Ball men have thishappen all the time.
Contain Men:
(No. 1 or No. 8) You havean extremely important job. On base kicks,No. 8 is the contain man (Diagram 6).
A.
Keep the ball on your inside shoulder.
B.
Never be deeper than the ball.
C.
Do not open up a running lane. Bephysical and squeeze, but be ready for across-field return. Turn everything inside.Use your hands. Stay square.
D.
If you are on the backside of a direc-tional kick, still squeeze but be ready for across-field return. Turn everything inside.Use your hands. Stay square.
Safety:
(kicker and possibly others)
A.
Kick ball high and deep.
B.
Follow behind the wave of defend-ers to the ball. If the return is inside thenumbers, mirror the ball. If the return isoutside the numbers, you become thesafety to that side. If the returner breaksout, buy time by forcing him back to your
Diagram 4Diagram 5Diagram 6

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