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coordinating special teams success

coordinating special teams success

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Published by Michael Schearer

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Published by: Michael Schearer on Nov 16, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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In the spring of 1999, I became the Head

Coach of the University of North Dakota football team. My immediate concern was what role would I play in the preparation of this football team on the field.

I had previously served as a defensive coordinator at UND and an offensive coor- dinator as a head coach at the University of Mary. I realized, however, that the demands of being a head coach at UND would be restrictive in being a coordinator on either side of the ball. My best solution was found within the special teams. The more I examined the advantages of being a head coach and special teams coordinator, the more I liked this concept. I found that the major benefits were:

\u2022 An opportunity to work with the pun-
ters and kickers as their position coach.
\u2022 An opportunity to work with players on
both sides of the ball on a daily basis.

\u2022 It frees up your offensive and defen- sive coordinators to concentrate on their side of the ball.

\u2022 It gives special teams a true sense of importance when the head coach is direct- ly involved.

\u2022 In game situations, it helps in making crucial decisions when the head coach is the special teams coach.

Once I made the decision that I was going to become the special teams coordi- nator, organization, structure and evalua- tion became a major focus.


In coordinating the special teams, I believe it is very important to delegate responsibility for the overall operation of special teams preparation. With each spe- cial team, one coach is given the assign- ment of being responsible for the design and execution of that special team unit. Three to four other coaches will be assigned to assist with the technique work required at each position. The delegation of our special teams assignment breakdown occurs as follow.

Punt Team

Tackles & Slots Coach
PersonalProtector Coach
Bullet Coach
Punter Coach

Punt Block & Return
Interior Rush Coach
Left Perimeter Coach
Right Perimeter Coach
Return Man Coach
PAT.& FG Team

Interior Linemen
Wings & Ends Coach
Holder & Kicker Coach

PAT & FG Block Team

Interior Linemen Coach
Perimeter Block Side Coach
Perimeter Block Safe Coach

Kickoff Return Team
Front Line Coach
Tight Ends & Fullbacks Coach
Return Man Coach
Kickoff Cover Team
Right Perimeter Cover Side Coach
Left Perimeter Cover Side Coach
Middle Cover Coach
Kicker Coach

The assignments are made according to the experiences of the coaching staff . Generally, the defensive coaches will be responsible for the Block teams (Punt, PAT, and FG) and the Kickoff cover team. The offensive coaches will be responsible for the punt team, kickoff return team and the PAT/FG team. As the head coach, I am responsible for the punt team and the kick- off return team and will oversee all other teams.


I believe it is very important to have a practice schedule for your specialty per- formers. At UND, we use a period struc- tured set-up for our practices. On our special teams bulletin board, I will post a specialty practice schedule (Diagram A) along with the special teams depth chart and any information pertaining to the special teams unit that we are practicing that day. Our punters and kickers will have their assigned individual technique periods along with group times when they are working with other position groups. This gives our kickers and pun- ters an opportunity to stay involved with the team during the course of a practice (Diagram A).

One of the most difficult parts of coach-
ing the special teams is finding a fair and
AFCA Sum m er M anual
2 0 0 2
Dale Lennon
Head Coach
University of North Dakota
Gr and For ks, N.D.
Coordinating Special
Teams Success

efficient way of evaluating your players. A big part of our evaluation process is chart- ing. Each week, we will have times assigned to chart specific skills. By keeping a season charting log, the coach develops a performance record of his special teams performers. Once a weak, our kickers will

chart 10 kick offs for distance and hang- time. They will also chart their field goal accuracy (Diagram B) from different points on the field. In our field goal chart, I like to have a visual account of the point where the ball crossed the goal posts. By record- ing the accuracy point, you will be able to

identify the strength and weaknesses of your kicker at certain points on the field (Diagram B).


Our punters chart (Diagram C) will record the punter\u2019s get-off time, hang time and the distance of the punt from the line of scrimmage. My biggest emphasis in punting is the get-off time. The get-off time is the amount of time that expires between when the ball touches the pun- ter\u00eds hands and the sound of the foot kicking the ball. The hang time and the distance of the punt are naturally very important, but my first concern is getting the punt off. If the punters get-off time is over 1.3, the distance of the punt may be irrelevant.


As with our punters, my biggest con- cern with our snappers is their snap time. The goal of our snappers is to get the ball to the punters within 0.90 seconds. The combination of the snap time and the get off time should be at 2.2 seconds. The next major concern is the accuracy of the snap. As with our kickers, I want to have a visual reference to verify the accuracy of the snap (Diagram D). Accuracy will have a direct correlation on the get-off time of the punter. By charting our snap- pers in a pre-practice session, it becomes obvious who are the top snap- pers. Charting is also a great way to eval- uate your top snapper\u00eds strengths and weaknesses, therefore allowing you to implement specific drills for individual improvement.

Final Evaluation

On the day before a game, we use a special teams rehearsal script. This script has become a very important element of our game week preparation. Our scripted routine allows us to go through game-like situations to clarify our sideline manage- ment and make sure our personnel substi- tutions and our two-deep depth chart is accurate. This review will only take 15 min- utes and is run at the end of practice. Our team review script is as follows (Friday Special Teams Script).


Special teams play is one-third of the game and can be the difference between a win and a loss. I firmly believe it is very

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