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kickoff coverages the penn state way

kickoff coverages the penn state way

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Published by: Michael Schearer on Nov 16, 2008
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On behalf of Joe Paterno and

Pennsylvania State University coach - ing staff and players, it is truly an honor and privilege to have this opportunity to con- tribute to theAFCA Summer Manual.

Penn State\u2019s approach to winning is we believe there are three departments of play: offense, defense and kicking. It is our feeling that we must win the kicking game. Players and coaches must believe and give attention to the kicking game because it is one third of the football game. More big breaks occur in the kicking game than any- where else. Breaks occur where a team or player is not prepared for a situation. Kicking situations should be practiced over and over so that we make these breaks ourselves. It is our belief that most close games are won by the team with the best kicking game. We will win two more games a year if we have a good kicking game.

Special Team Philosophy

Great teams don\u2019t merely have ade- quate special teams. They have special teams that can break games open, score touchdowns, force turnovers, give their offense and defense good field position as often as possible. We want to be attack-ori- ented. We want to be very competitive. We want to break it down into little battles that are fought on every play. We want them fighting until the whistle blows. Once you get those little battles going on, it becomes very intimidating for the other team.

Elements of a Successful Kicking Game
Elimination of Mistakes:C o n c e n t r a t e

on assignments. Learn vital rules to take full advantage of them. Be aware of the situa- tion. Be aware of what your opponent is try- ing to accomplish.

I n t e n s i t y :Refer to every little detail in the
kicking game. Must be all out Pride-Hustle-
D e s i r e .
Fundamentals:Precise skills are

involved. Punters, snappers, holders, place- kickers, must work many extra hours at their skills. They must concentrate. Distances at which holders and kickers must locate them- selves, timing and getting kicks away must be worked on tirelessly. The above needs precise and constant attention.

Personnel Selection

The success of any special team unit is the selection of the players. We believe that we must play our best players to be successful. When we say the best players,

we truly mean players who are first team defense and offense. We want our best 11 on the field at all times. We want a special team player who is pure and can play with reckless abandon and not feel restrained by technical sophistication. Of all the ingredients that are considered in the selection of special teams personnel, the most important ingredients a player must possess are personal character, unselfish- ness, team oriented, courageous and an enthusiastic winner. These things will make our special teams successful. Our kickoff coverage team consist of lineback- ers and defensive backs that are good open-field tacklers and that have outstand- ing speed.

Kickoff Coverage and General Information

The kickoff team can set the tone for an entire game or half by making a great play or an exceptional big hit. Remember, the kicker must be a big part of setting the tone, 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 allow a return past the 20-yard line. Each mem- ber of the kickoff team plays a major role in keeping the yard lines as low as possible. We can have great kickoff coverage only by having:

\u2022 High, deep kicks.
\u2022 Proper (directional) kick placement
with appropriate distance.
\u2022 Aggressive, fast reckless coverage

\u2022 Proper lane distribution.
\u2022 Proper positioning of safeties and con-

tain men at all times.

\u2022 Speed, speed, speed and more speed
\u2022 Great second effort.
\u2022 Toughness and hitting.

Our major points of emphasis in devel-

oping our teams:
\u2022 Kick placement (location).
\u2022 Get off.
\u2022 Speed.
\u2022 Adjustments to the ball.
\u2022 Beat blocks.
\u2022 Close and tackle.


\u2022 All turn and face the kicker with your hands on your knees bent and able to see the kicker and the ball.

AFCA Sum m er M anual
2 0 0 0
Lar r y Johnson
Defensive Line and Special
Teams Coach
Pennsylvania State Univer sity
State College, Pa.
Kickoff Cover ages the
Penn State Way
\u2022 The referee will signal the ball ready
for play.
\u2022 The kicker will check both sides to see
that we are ready.

\u2022 He will lower his hand to signal the coverage team members the start of his approach. From this point on, everyone must time their approach so that we are at full stride at the time of the kick (one step behind the kicker running full speed).

\u2022 It is imperative that no one is ever off- side. One and eight are responsible for reminding everyone once we line up to be on side.

\u2022 Wait until the kicker starts. See him-- as the kicker starts his cross-over step, roll into 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 be at full speed with your eyes up.

\u2022 The whole unit should hit the line togeth-
er like a \u201csteel rod\u201d driven through the unit.

We always align the ball two and a half to three yards off the left hash. We do this for two reasons:1. we want to limit the field space and2. we want to limit the number of returns a team can run against us and in most cases, we see the same return each week.

You should never let your alignment interfere with the kicker\u2019s ability to approach or see the ball. We ask our kick- er to directional kick aiming for the bottom of the numbers at the five yard line.

Coaching Point:When we direction-

al kick from the hash, number three and four must be aware of this alignment and everyone else for timing. From our

base alignment, we will make individual adjustments all designed to time up kick one yard behind kicker as he kicks the ball, running almost full speed. Once you learn your proper alignment, study the place-kicker\u2019s step and approach. Align the same place every time. The key to our success is great timing and speed.

A.We will always first, huddle on the
sideline with the coach. Players will be
checked and reminders given.
B.On the field huddle: This will take
place on the 25 yard line.
C.The kicker will give the call and say
ready, call, clap and everyone will sprint to
their spot for that call.
D.We have 25 seconds to kick the ball
Alignment and Assignment Base
1:Five yards from sideline. Straight
down, maintain outside leverage, do not let
them kick you out.
2:Five yards from sideline. Straight
down, find the ball, do not let them split
9:Five yards from outside of hash,
Straight down, find the ball. Make the ball
carrier 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. Straight
down, 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 the
field, find the ball. Make the ball carrier
commit in one direction. Rover.
8:Three yards from the sideline, full

sprint 20 yards, fold behind 6, 7, no further than hash unless ball is committed away from 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 three
zones that you must be concerned about.
Speed and Read Zone:Sprint down

the field while reading your return key to see which return the opponent is using, as well as the direction of the return.

Avoid Zone:Avoid all blocks to the tail

of the opponent, then get back into your lane except for contain persons; never avoid blocks to the inside.

Contact Zone:Attack and play through

all blocks and defeat blocks; cannot get caught on a side of a blocker in the contact zone. We want to see every player of the opponents knocked down on the kickoff.

Hit the Line like a Steel Rod

Now let\u2019s be more specific and divide the actual coverage down into the physical components of kickoff coverage. Kickoff coverage has four distinct phases. Each has a skill that we try to develop and improve through drills and work in funda- mental techniques. These skills are:

Get Off:This must be timed with the

approach of the kicker. It includes stance, alignment, proper vision of the ball and immediate acceleration to maximum speed.

A. Stance and Alignment:We have

already described this. We must have prop- er spacing and see the kicker. Utilize a two- point stance with the weight up on balls of the feet. As the kicker passes, begin your takeoff. Remember we want full speed on the take off.

B. Proper Vision:Never lose sight of

the kicker. Poor vision and timing will result in an offside penalty. Let the kicker pass before we take off.

C. Acceleration:This is as the cover-

age men cross the 35 yard line. Accelerate to maximum speed. Keep your eyes down field. A maximum burst will allow us to cover the next 45 yards in the shortest time.

Sprint and Ball Adjustment: This is

the important skill of running down field and making a decision on when to adjust the course of the run. This decision should be based on the following factors, game plan and individual techniques will dictate priority.

A. Flight of the Ball:It is important that
we look early above our head to see (or
feel) the ball.
B. Location and Direction of Return
Men: Find the return specialists. As they
proceed to where the ball is caught
AFCA Sum m er M anual
2 0 0 0
Diagr am 1: Base Alignment
Diagram 2: Kickoff Coverage Huddle
Diagr am 3: Zone Char t
(Left/middle/right), they will tell us where
the ball is located.
C. Set up Back Blocks:This will give a
strong indication as to the type of return
D. Front Line Blocks Set-Up:The

direction indicated by the first wave (line) of blocks. At times, this can be inaccurate, due to a misleading path or technique of the blocker. Study them on tape. Know the opponent.

Note:Proper adjustment will take us to

the correct side of the field in which to stop a return. As we adjust, it is critical that we begin to manipulate the block in front of us. Keep our eyes on a swivel so we can react to all circumstances.

Beat The Blocker:As the cover team

closes the distance as fast as they can between themselves and the first wave of blocks or first blockers (or a blocker approaches him), they must begin to \u201cmanipulate\u201d them. Manipulate the blocker by swerving or weaving using head fakes in the run, cause the blocker to stop his feet, adjust his course, crossover or create an imbalance in his base as he attempts to block the cover persons. On the approach, using these techniques, slightly widen the base. This will allow us to go to either side of 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 the blocker. If he appears off balance, run right past him without any moves.

B. Employ a Shoulder Dip:Avoid con-

tact if possible. Freeze him with a weave and 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 he makes contact, keep the feet moving. Do not try to shoulder rip if he has latched on.

C. Hand Shiver:If a blocker makes

contact, attack him and get the hands on the inside of his hands in the number area. Then grab and shrug him aside. Use an \u201carm over\u201d or \u201crip by,\u201d drive him back in to the return and react to the ball. Come to Balance and play off him. He will be off bal- ance when he attacked.

D. Shoulder Drive:This technique is

used against the wedge or double team. Drive your shoulder through the designated man and force the ball by driving the block- er back. Eliminate forward progress. Use up two blocks.

E. Change up:Start to come to balance
and then explode by him, stutter step as
fast as possible.
F. If You Get Blocked:You must not
stay blocked!
Close:Close is the movement after we

have beaten the blockers. Take the most direct course to the ball. We must make the tackle (or force the direction of the ball). Your distance from the ball will determine this action. Never get past the ball or deep- er than the ball.


The technique utilized in coverage will be determined by the assignment for that particular coverage called. We must have an understanding of the following terms as they apply to each position and what the responsibility is, especially if we move the rovers around (No. 9 and No. 10). The fol- lowing is an explanation of the key points of coverage as we tell members of the Penn State coverage team:

Shoulder Men:As you \u201csprint\u201d down

field, make your adjustments. Once this is established, maintain designated shoulder leverage on the ball carrier (Diagram 4). Attack the blocker if he tries to block you based on your distance from the ball carri- er. Anything too far away, beat him with speed, 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, \u201csqueeze\u201d

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. Second
effort offsets everything else.
E.Come to Balance (CTB). Get under
control, find the ball and fight off the block
to the ball maintaining proper leverage.
F.You have to have an aggressive men-
tality and be responsible.
Ball Men: They will be our designated

\u201chit\u201d man. They are expected to make the play or force it as quickly as possible (Diagram 5). As you sprint down field, make your adjustment. You will usually run into an immediate encounter.

A.As soon as the ball is kicked, sneak a

peek at the tackle to your side for an \u201cindi- cation\u201d of the type of return. Do not slow down!

B.Beat the first line of blockers (speed).
C. \u201cAvoid\u201d them if you get blocked
D.Keep your head up, eyes on a swivel.
E.If you are getting blocked, \u201csqueeze\u201d

by leaning into the blocker. Don\u2019t careless- ly create a lane. Use your hands to drive the opponent back.

F.Go make the play!
G.By game plan or poor kick, you could
become a shoulder man.
H.You must become very efficient at
adjustment technique. Ball men have this
happen all the time.
Contain Men: (No. 1 or No. 8) You have
an 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. Be

physical and squeeze, but be ready for a cross-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 a cross-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 the numbers, mirror the ball. If the return is outside the numbers, you become the safety to that side. If the returner breaks out, buy time by forcing him back to your

AFCA Sum m er M anual
2 0 0 0
Diagr am 4
Diagr am 5
Diagr am 6

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