to the 2001 AFCA Summer Manual. I have learned that coaching is a constant learning process and a lot of what we teach we have learned, begged and borrowed from other coaches. In writing this article it is a way to thank all those coaches who have gone out of their way to take the time to pro- vide information, answer questions and teach me the information that I hope can help you in coaching your special teams.
Also, I feel very fortunate to be coaching at the University of Pittsburgh. Our head coach, Walt Harris, believes strongly in the kicking game and provides the time and facil- ities to be successful. He attends our meet- ings and practice periods which I think sends a great message of their importance to our players and coaching staff for their dedica- tion and efforts to helping our special teams make a positive contribution to winning.
About the title: when I first started coach- ing the special teams I had an opportunity to listen to Dick Vermeil, the first special teams coach in the NFL. He defined special teams as another opportunity to make a positive contribution to winning. That always stuck with me and I have carried that philosophy with me. He believed in the attitude that if your team had the belief that you could help win 1-2 games a year just based on your contributions in the kicking game you had it rolling. And that when two teams being equal would play, special teams would make the difference. So we sell to our players that their role or contribution on the special teams is as important as their role or contri- bution on offense and defense.
During our freshman practice, besides taking a pre-practice specialists period for all kickers, punters, snappers, holders and returners, we also take one period a prac- tice to evaluate kicking game techniques.
To emphasize the importance of the kicking game when our new comers come on campus for their first practices we take one period a practice to introduce tech- niques and evaluate our newcomers in special teams situations. Most teams put the new recruits on offense and defense for one practice but we have found that by putting our new recruits in these drills it has improved our evaluations of them.
The first practice we teach our punt tech- niques. We teach all our newcomers how to vertical set. We start them on the sideline so that they learn how to work straight back. We start with the stance. We want our feet slight- ly wider than shoulder width apart. Our inside
foot is up. We want all our weight on our front foot. We tell our players to curl their toes in their shoes to emphasize them pushing off their inside foot. We stagger our outside foot anywhere between six and 18 inches. We bend at our ankles, knees and waist so that our chest is as close to our thigh as possible allowing us to get as deep off the line of scrimmage as possible with our helmets still breaking the belt line of the center. We place our hands on our knees.
They key the ball for movement. We tell them to keep one eye on the man and one eye on the ball. We are aligned so that we are facing the sidelines with our inside foot on the yard line. We are spaced five yards apart and usually have six lines.
On movement, push off your inside foot and kick with your outside foot. We kick slide two steps. We want to work straight back keeping their inside foot on the yard line. They will want to pop up at first, so we emphasize pressing their chest on their thigh. Keeping the shoulders square, and maintaining a base. Working from a low plane to a high plane. We punch against air with our hands. Again working low to high. Elbows in, thumbs out we strike with the butt of our hands. Once you engage the rusher, widen him away from the block spot and release to your landmark. If we have time we will align in our punt formation and do a half line vertical set and release vs. air to our landmarks.
Our second drill relates to our punt return and field goal block phase. It is a course block drill using cones. The purpose of the drill is to evaluate a player\u2019s stance, get-off, course, and ability to block kicks. We will align two drills, a left side and a right side. The drill starts with ball movement. There is a front row of cones four yards apart. Behind the front cone is another cone three yards deep. There is a punter or coach nine to nine-and- half yards from the ball (Diagram 2).
We are coaching the player to get into a sprinters stance. We tell our players hand behind the ball, head behind the hand to get as much of the ball as possible without being
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