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Randy Brown Kicking Consultant Randy Brown Kicking Camps Cherry Hill, N.J.
t is indeed an honor and privilege to speak at this year’s AFCA Convention on instructing kickers and punters. I would like to thank Grant Teaff, Walter Abercrombie, and the entire AFCA for extending this opportunity to me. Before I begin, I would also like to highlight a few special teams coaches who have been instrumental to my success. Al Roberts, John Harbaugh, and Keith Armstrong gave me an opportunity to teach at the NFL level. My kicking and punting career began as a 10th grader following 10 years of soccer. I proceeded to Catawba College in 1985, played in all 44 games and became the school’s all-time leading scorer in 1988. After bouncing around the NFLas a free agent kicker, the World League and the Arena Football League, I felt it was time to turn my passion for kicking to coaching. In 1989, I began my first camp at Cherokee High School in New Jersey. Our camps have been very successful. We have produced the last 11 New Jersey all-state kicker or punter and over 75 college kickers and punters. I am very fortunate to currently be instructing 12 NFL punters and kickers. My discussion this morning will be regarding the basic instruction of kicking and punting. I will begin with punting. As I look around the room and see coaches from high school to Division I-A, the information that I will provide you with will allow all of you something to take back to your respective schools. When I begin to instruct a punter, regardless of his age, I play catch with him to see what kind of hands he has. It is critical to all aspects of punting that your punter has athletic ability with his hands. This leads me into my six-step evaluation and instruction procedure. Catch: Does your punter catch the ball cleanly? Can he field low or high balls? Does he catch the front, back, or middle of the football? If your punter has a good leg but poor hands make sure he is catching balls all day long, so he can improve his hands. So, when you see him kneeling on his helmet watching practice make him get up and catch. Mold: I use the word mold to help explain the ability to take the catch and move the ball in the punter’s hands to his perfect spot. Most punters like the laces on top, some like to look straight down the laces providing for a straight ball. When
you are teaching your punter molding, he must attempt to put the ball in the same spot each time and get the feel of the ball in his hands consistently. You can permit your punter to turn the ball inside slightly if they are comfortable with it. If a punter turns the ball inside too much the nose will dive down and inside causing a hook ball. Drop: In my opinion, this is the most important aspect of punting. It is critical to have a strong and effective drop! Consistency in the drop separates the college and free agent punters from the starting NFLpunters. I have seen plenty of pun ters who can punt them 60-70 yards one of four punts, but because of an inconsistent drop they shank one, drop one inside, hit the back end of the ball on the others. Punters need to be technicians and this is the aspect of their game in which they must be extremely technical! So how do you teach a good consistent drop? Tell your punters to pretend they are sliding an egg on a flat table. They must extend the elbow and keep the ball flat. It is crucial to keep it flat. If the nose is up their foot will hit the back end. If the nose is down, they will strike the front of the ball. Extend the elbow and place the ball on the foot. By not extending the elbow the ball will be back on the back of the foot causing a short-legged kick. Remember your punter must be comfortable, not robotic. Steps: I have always been a believer in some form of directional punting. Especially in college with such wide hash marks. Directional doesn’t always mean sideways. There are many NFL teams, which try directional middle with a vertical punter. There are some punting coaches who believe everyone must be a two-step punter, and whether the punter is 5-10 or 66, they are taught the same techniques. That is detrimental to the development of the athlete. I don’t have any pretty name for the punting technique. Punting and kicking techniques shouldn’t be given names and all players’ body types are different and unique. They should be taught separately. The punter’s steps should be consistent, and except for tight punt, your punter should have the same steps all over the field. I’ve seen Pro Bowl punters who are three steps to one and one fourth steps. You must evaluate your snapper, protection and finally what steps your punter is comfortable with. Try to have your total package under 2.1 seconds + or – one tenth depending on your snapper ’s velocity.
• Proceedings • 78th AFCA Convention • 2001 •
Foot to Ball: Foot to ball contact will help determine whether or not you will have a spiral and will it turn over. Punters must have the toe depressed when making contact with the ball. Even if the punter gets a good drop if the toe is up it will hit the ball first. You want the meaty part of your foot to hit the underbelly of the ball flush. Swing: Does your punter’s kicking knee end on his right shoulder once, left shoulder another time, then finally down the middle the next time? Consistent swing plane is extremely critical to making consistent contact with the ball. In general, have your punter’s kicking leg finish at his head. Video from behind and you will be able to see it. No matter what, the punter must have a consistent swing plane, just like a pro golfer. Now let’s talk about the players who have as much control on the outcomes of games than most anyone on the field: kickers. In the past many of you have lost a job or got an extension because of a kicker. Let me give you a basic six-point evaluation and instruction checklist to follow. Steps Back & Forward: Remember this about most kickers. They were soccer players. Don’t fret if your kicker doesn’t have the prototypical three steps back two over. What you must look for, as a coach is the starting position. Regardless of how he gets there, your kicker must be in the same starting position prior to each kick. Kickers’
approaches vary from three to two and a half to two steps. As long as you are getting the kick off in 1.25 or less don’t worry about it. If you are getting kicks blocked off the edge, it is time to evaluate your protection. Don’t change your kicker if still under 1.25 seconds. Plant Foot: The plant foot will change depending on various factors. Are you kicking off the ground, two inch tee, one inch tee, a short legged, long legged, etc? To generalize, have your kicker’s plant foot be six to eight inches away from the ball and the anklebone should be directly across from the ball. Most NFL kickers kicking off the ground will plant slightly in front of the ball. Coaching Point: If your kicker is right footed and is missing right, the plant foot could be too close. Missing to the left he could be planting too wide, but there could be more factors involved. Foot to Bone: The ball must be kicked on the sweet spot with the bone of the foot. Do not kick on the ankle, toe, or instep, all common mistakes. You should be able to hear the thud for a good kick. A slapping sound most likely means the toe. Shoulder In: Does your kicker end up aimed at the pylon in the corner of the end zone? Is he all hips and pulls his body through too much? If so have him bring his opposite arm across his body to keep his shoulder in. This will prevent the severe hook misses. Follow Through: Let’s talk about the swing plane. Similar to striking a golf ball,
have your kicker practice a full swing without the ball. Remember the more leg swing the higher and farther the ball will travel. Kickers who “punch” at the ball and stop their leg follow through at contact are not as effective as those who carry through the kick to the fullest. Finish at Target: When the kick is complete and the kicker has followed through and skipped down field, he should be able to stop and be pointed directly at the target. Have your players, especially those in high school, practice their entire motion without a ball and finishing at the target. This is critical to high school and college kickers due to the wide hash marks. I hope that these six steps will assist you in making your athletes better and more consistent. Our time is about up and there are so many issues still to discuss. I want to leave you with how I feel you should handle kickers and punters. Treat them like you would your quarterbacks. Always be positive. Stay away from the negatives, threats, punishments, etc. Find out what makes them tick, watch film with them and, most importantly, explore their needs on game day. You must know what to technically tell them before a kick! Remember, as a head coach, the key to your next extension could very well be your kicker! Thanks again for the opportunity to speak to you about my passion, kicking and punting.
“Smash Mouth” Football, Similar Terms, Should Not Be in a Coach’s Vocabulary
Hard-nosed, maybe, but “smash-mouth” football is not how competent football coaches refer to their game. Football is a contact game, but terms that reflect brutality and violence do not belong in a coach’s vocabulary. Image is one reason to clean up slang terms like smash-mouth that have become popular in the media, but a more compelling reason comes from a legal standpoint. In a courtroom, descriptive terms are used against coaches and the game. Don’t hesitate to ask your fellow coaches, student-athletes and especially the media who cover your team to cooperate and refrain from using overly-descriptive terms that reflect poorly on the game and your profession. • Proceedings • 78th AFCA Convention • 2001 •
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