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turning your special teams into an offensive weapon

turning your special teams into an offensive weapon

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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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n the past two seasons at HamptonUniversity, the Pirates have been first inthe nation in kickoff returns (‘01) and first inthe nation in punt returns (‘02). Our specialteams have scored 14 touchdowns in thepast two seasons. They have also had all-conference and All-American players inpunting, kicking and kick returning. Webelieve at Hampton, it’s not just thescheme, but also the emphasis of howimportant it is to the outcome of the game.While many teams overlook practice timefor the kicking game, here at Hampton, ourfirst 20 minutes of practice are devoted tospecial teams. We place a heavy emphasison it by making sure the whole team isinvolved in special teams. It is imperativethat all players attend meetings, in order toinstill the importance of this aspect of ourpreparation. Next, our meetings are treatedthe same as offensive or defensive meet-ings. We have handouts, film cuts, and agame plan on how we will attack the opposi-tion. Every player on the team will leave withan understanding of how we will attack andwhat it will take to be successful.(Diagram 1) The key is no hesitation bythe returner. We will always sell the block totry to cause a breakdown in the blockingscheme. Our return is automatic (middlereturn). Force coverage inside out. Thereturner has to beat the center, but we willmake contact on him before his release.(Diagram 2) Corners are aligned insideout, slightly cocked. We want to invite thetrack meet, but use the sideline as yourguide. At some point, the gunner has to getback inside. Corner split the middle of thegunner with the outside leg. Keep hands instrike position (very important). Stayrelaxed and key any movement by gunner.Third, we don’t just kick the ball in prac-tice and run our return, we have an Indyperiod for our special teams. We divide ourreturn, as well as our staff, up into sections.From this point, we drill each positionaccordingly. We have found that not onlywill players be more focused on the task athand, but also by utilizing the Indy period,we are able to get a lot more reps in theprocess.(Diagram 3) We must apply pressureaway from personal protector with speedand apply pressure with No. 1 and No. 2personal protector side with stunts. If No. 1doesn’t get the block, he has to take thepunter on the return. No. 2 has contain.Last, but not least, it takes special peo-ple to play special teams. It is normally thehard-nosed, very aggressive over-achieverthat plays special teams. It’s the player thatprobably has not yet broken into the start-ing offensive or defensive line up.(Diagram 4) No. 3 and No. 4 are respon-sible for squeezing Aand B gap. Once A
Turning YourSpecialTeams Intoan OffensiveWeapon
Diagram 1Diagram 2: CornersDiagram 3: 1s and 2sZuriel Smith was named to the 2002AFCA Division I-AA All-Amerca team asthe return specialist

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