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On behalf of head coach Chuck Broyles, the entire coaching staff and our players, we would like to thank the American Football Coaches Association Summer Manual Committee for this opportunity to share some of our ideas on the kickoff return. After the 1999 season, we wanted to improve our kickoff return teams consistency so we began visiting with other schools to see what they were doing with their kickoff return teams. What we came away with and what we have since implemented here at Pittsburg State University has been very successful and very consistent. During the 2000 football season, our kick-off return team averaged 23.3 yards per return, an average drive start at the 30.4 yard line after kick-off, and ranked 1st in our conference (MIAA) and 14th in the nation (Division II). During the 2001 football season, our kick-off return team averaged 25.0 yards per return, an average drive start at the 33.3 yard line after kickoff, and ranked second in our conference (MIAA) and fifth in the nation (Division II). Special Teams Philosophy In today’s world, it seems that everyone wants a big return from a minimal investment. In the game of football, especially in the kicking game, we know that certain investments (time, personnel, attention to detail, etc.) cannot be minimal if we expect to get big returns. With approximately one out of every five plays in a football game related to the kicking game, and because of the unusual situations that arise during kicking game plays, it is easy to see how quickly the kicking game can affect (positively or negatively) the outcome of any game. In order to be successful in the kicking game at Pittsburg State University, our philosophy related to the kicking game is to do the following: 1. To utilize the BEST personnel possible (starters included) . 2. To make sure that all coaches are actively involved in the kicking game. 3. To be detailed and well prepared in all phases and aspects of the kicking game. ¯ 4. To fully utilize daily practice time in order to perfect all individual and team skills. 5. To win the battle of field position
(hidden yardage) in order to give our offense and defense the best possible field position. Kickoff Return Team Philosophy And Goals We are basically a right/left, and middle return team. We feel that this kickoff return package allows us to do the following: 1. To attack the right and left sides as well as the middle of the field. 2. To operate on sound principles. 3. To teach the schemes and techniques easily to our players. 4. To have the ability to check to our best return on the field if we need to do so (based on how the kick-off coverage team lines up). Our kickoff return team goals are as follows: 1. Score (or set up a score with a big play). 2. Average 25 yards per return. 3. Average drive start at the 30-yard line after a kick-off. 4. Field all kicks (make good fielding decisions). 5. No turnovers. 6. No penalties. Kickoff Return Team Alignment Our front line personnel will align in a staggered manner. The backside and playside tackles align on the 47-yard line in the middle of or at the top of the numbers. The center also aligns on the 47-yard line and is offset from the ball. The backside and playside guards align on the 50-yard line approximately three yards outside the hash marks. Our backside and playside ends align on the 35-yard line and will split the difference between the numbers and the hash. Our backside and playside fullbacks align on the 25-yard line approximately one yard outside the hash. Our right and left returners will align approximately two yards outside the hash and their depth will be determined by scouting the opposing kicker. The right returner is the “call” man. He will make all decisions on who will field the ball (Diagram 1). Kickoff Return Team Personnel With an increased emphasis on the kicking game in the last several years, it has become very common for teams to place their better athletes on all of their
Getting a Productive Kickoff Return
John Pierce Runningbacks Coach Pittsburg State University Pittsburg, Kan.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •
8 man to the left with our backside tackle. We want to double team the No. 4 man to the inside (or to the left) with our playside tackle and playside fullback, and double team the No. 3 man to the outside with our backside end and backside fullback and create a crease in the coverage team on either the right or left side of the field. For the sake of space in this article, we’ve diagrammed our right return. For our left return, we’ll simply count from our left and our blocking rules will be reversed from our right return.
ends and fullbacks will set up in a wedge 1012 yards in front of the ball and then the playside end and playside fullback are responsible for the No. 5 man and the backside end and backside fullback are responsible for the No. 6 man, where ever they go. We want to create a seam somewhere in the middle of the field and hit it at full speed with our return man. Kickoff Return Team Coaching Points Centers, Guards and Tackles 1. See the ball kicked before you leave. Anticipate the on-side kick. Take a step forward as the ball is kicked before you leave. 2. If the ball is on-side kicked, it must go 10 yards. If in doubt, cover it. 3. On a squib kick, stop and block as soon as you see the ball on the ground. 4. Sprint back keeping your body between your man and the ball. Be patient, let your man take up the slack and then be ready to block him when he’s within five yards of you. 5. Block your man in relation to the return. You don’t have to knock him down, but make sure you reroute him away from the ball or return. Ends and Fullbacks 1. Do not field a kick unless it is kicked directly to you. We may fair catch any kickoff or free kick, but we cannot let the ball hit the ground. 2. Be alert, don’t block a man who’s taken himself out of the play. 3. Do not block behind the ball. 4. Fullbacks must never back up to catch a kick. Listen for calls behind you. Deepbacks 1. The right returner is the call man. He will make all decisions on who will field the ball. 2. Three yard rule: Don’t field a ball this is going to land within three yards of the sideline. 3. End zone rule: Don’t return a ball kicked more than two yards deep in the end zone, make good decisions. 4. Work on catching the ball as you’re moving forward with your elbows in. 5. Set up your blocking by bringing the ball straight upfield, then making your cuts. 6. If the impetus of the ball causes it to go into the end zone, even if you have “muffed” the ball, you can down it in the end zone for a touchback. 7. If you cause the ball to go into the end
special teams. Just as the success of your offense and defense depends in part on placing athletes in the proper positions, so it is with your personnel on special teams. We want to use players that have the ability to run, have good hips, have the ability to block a man in open space and also have the ability to sustain blocks for a period of time. On our front line, we look to use outside linebackers, bigger defensive backs, and tight ends. For our ends and fullbacks, we are looking for linebackers and tight ends. For our return men, we are looking for runningbacks, wide receivers or defensive backs that can judge and field kick offs well and that will run hard and attack seams in the kickoff coverage team at full speed. Counting The Kickoff Coverage Team On our right return, we will count the kickoff coverage team personnel from our right to left. We do not count the kicker. (Diagram 1) Because of the variety of coverage schemes being utilized today, we may have to adjust our count and make adjustments based on which players are being utilized as safeties by the kickoff coverage team. On our left return, we simply count the kickoff coverage team personnel from left to right. On our middle return, we will count from the right to the left just as we do for our right return. Right Or Left Return On our right or left return, we are attempting to wall off the No. 5 man to the left with the playside guard, the No. 6 man to the left with the center, the No. 7 man to the left with the backside guard and the No.
Middle Return On our middle return, we will count from the right and we are going to seal the No. 3 man outside to the right with the playside tackle, seal the No. 4 man outside to the right with the playside guard, seal the No. 7 man outside to the left with the center, seal the No. 8 man outside to the left with the backside guard, and seal the No. 9 man outside to the left with the backside tackle. Our
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •
zone, i.e., lose control on a fumble or run into the end zone, you must run it out or you’ll give up a safety. 8. If the ball is fielded by the other return man, make sure he secures the catch before executing your blocking assignment. 9. The deepbacks must move up quickly to back up a man fielding a short kick. The call man must communicate to him to “take it.” Blocking Techniques We will attempt to either wall our man off or run with him with the idea of rerouting him away from the ball or return. 1. All blocks will be made chest high. 2. We can use our hands as long as they are in front of us and our hands are open. 3. If your man breaks down, you break down. Work to wall him off from the side of the return. You want to stay with your man and reroute him away from the return. Keys 1. Landmarks. We may designate a place on the field where we will drop to, this will enable us to establish position or leverage on our man. 2. Key your man’s eyes, they will focus on the direction of the ball.
With the help of Travis Stepps (above) and Levi Neville, Pittsburg State’s kickoff return team ranked fifth in Division II in 2001. The Gorillas returned 26 kicks for 649 yards averaging 24.96 yards per return. Neville ranked seventh in the nation in kickoff returns.
Key your man’s lane, it will give you an indication of the ball’s placement. Once again, we would like to express the appreciation of Pittsburg State University, our coaching staff and our play ers to the AFCA Summer Manual Committee for allowing us to share some of our thoughts on the kick-off return that have worked for us. We hope these thoughts will be of interest to you. If you have any questions about our kick-off return, please feel free to call on us at any time.
E v e r y b o d y ’s NOT Doing It
Finger pointing and dismissing unethical acts with an “everyone’s doing it” attitude in the public arena does nothing to help the game or the image of the football profession — your profession.
Everybody’s NOT doing it, but those who do flaunt the rules and the AFCA Code of Ethics are only encouraged if those honest coaches in the profession treat such acts lightly.
Stand up for your profession by acting responsibly. Lead by example and insist that your fellow coaches adhere to strict professional standards that are outlined in the Code of Ethics.
• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •