n behalf of Head Coach Mark Richt and the University of Georgia Bulldogs I am honored to share with the AFCA

membership some coaching points on the most significant play in football, the punt. While coaching the punt team for the past two years at Georgia, I have developed a new appreciation for coaches that have coached this segment of the kicking game. I would first like to thank Coach Richt for the opportunity he has given me to coach Georgia’s “Pride Team.” I truly believe each coach responsible for coaching some segment of the kicking game needs the support of his head coach. We are blessed to have a head coach that supplies us with the tools to get the job done in the kicking game. Secondly, I would also like to thank Coaches John Eason, Willie Martinez and Brian VanGorder for their assistance in coaching the punt team at Georgia. The coaches that assist me with the Pride Team play an invaluable part in the preparation and game plan of this kicking unit. The most important tool that can be given to any assistant coach is time. Typically kicking teams are given limited time to meet and practice. Taking advantage of this time is critical to our success. Below I have listed our weekly schedule for all the kicking segments. Monday: 45 minutes for kicking meetings, 25 minutes on the practice field. Tuesday: 10 minutes for kicking meetings, 35 minutes on the practice field. Wednesday: 10 minutes for kicking meetings, 25 minutes on the practice field. Thursday: 15 minutes for kicking meetings, 25 minutes on the practice field. Friday: 30 minutes for kicking meetings (may vary depending on travel). Saturday: 40 minutes for kicking meetings (may vary depending on travel). Sunday: Off day. I am fortunate to be given the needed time by Coach Richt to prepare our players in the kicking game. I believe it is critical for the whole squad to see the priority of the kicking game by a united coaching staff. Our players hear about the importance of the kicking game by every coach on our staff because each coach is involved in some segment of the kicking game. That is why we call our punt team the Pride Team. The players know tat it’s an honor to be a part of it and it’s successful execution has a vital impact on the outcome of each game. Coach Richt sets the tone for the year by addressing the squad at the first meet-


ing of training camp about the importance of the kicking game. We stress to the Pride Team that a punt is the most significant play in the game. Every punt has a uniqueness that does not typically occur on any other play. Some of the points that are presented to our team about the punt are as follows: 1. A sizeable amount of yardage is exchanged. 2. It is a change of possession. 3. It creates field position for the defense. 4. It can create momentum with a big hit or a turnover. 5. It gives our team another opportunity to do something great. 6. Field Position + Momentum = Points = Win. By the time we hit the field for the first practice of a new season I have laid out the following challenges to the Pride Team: 1. Can you take on the opponent’s elite? 2. There are no rules (Expect to be held, get the job done). 3. Without selfless expense and execution you will be embarrassed. 4. You are about to participate in the most significant play of the game. 5. Once the ball leaves the punter’s foot the bomb is ticking. Are you going to let it blow up in your face? 6. Are you unselfish, reliable and willing to be part of a unit that has more to do with winning or losing than any other? 7. Do you have a “One play and out” mentality? 8. There is no easy rep. Can you practice at game speed? Every time we step on the field to punt, the Pride Team must understand what is at stake and every man must make the decision to give his best to be successful. We keep our goals simple and attainable. The goals that we agreed upon for the 2002 season were: 1. Play penalty free. 2. Lead the Southeastern Conference in net average punt. 3. Average three yards per punt return or less. 4. Allow no touchdowns. 5. Do not have a punt blocked. We are a spread, zone protection team. The first day of practice we install the concept of gap protection and let everything else stem from that concept. Man protection techniques and schemes are then taught to handle unique defensive alignments. The personal protector will make

Georgia’s Pride Team

the needed adjustments according to game plan and personnel. When evaluating tape on an opponent or organizing practice I organize my thoughts in terms of: Alignment: Does the block/return team cause any problems for our base alignment? Operation: This is more than just the target times of the snap, get off and hang time. It involves the techniques, footwork and huddle operation. Protection: This is obviously a huge part in the scheme of things. Individual techniques and overall schemes may need to be adjusted depending upon the looks that are given by the block/return team. Release: Again, taking the attitude that the defender has no rules, we work hard on beating the “ticking bomb”. The “Net”: Next to the protection, we spend a large part of our time coaching the coverage part of the punt. Making the Play: This is understanding the angles and body position of making a tackle in space. Our basic alignment is a spread punt. The “gunners” flank the ball on each side, with the ball on the hash, the gunner to the field is three yards outside the hash to the top of the field numbers and the gunner to the boundary is anywhere from the top of the field numbers to the bottom of the numbers. Both gunners are on the ball. The gunner’s splits will be determined by the location of the ball and game plan. The interior “core” consists of two wings flanking the core on each side, two tackles, two guards, a long snapper and personal protector. The wing’s will be aligned in the backfield and place their inside foot a yard behind the outside foot of the tackle they flank. The wing must have the ability to touch the hip of the tackle in his stance. If he cannot touch the tackle he is aligned too deep. The tackles have a six-inch split from the guards with the guards having a six-inch split from the long snapper. The stance of those in the core is the same from wing to wing. Their inside foot (post foot) is up and their outside foot (set foot or kick foot) is back. Their hands are placed at the top of the thigh pad with great bend in the knees and hips. The guards and tackles place their post foot as far from the ball as possible, bend at the hips and lean toward the line of scrimmage so the top of their helmet breaks the plane of the snapper’s waist. The goal is to create as much separation from the line of scrimmage as possible and still be onsides. The personal protector will

have a base alignment of heels at five yards behind one of the guards. The punter starts out with his heels at 15 yards and adjusts that alignment depending on his stride. It’s ideal to get the launch point just less than 10 yards.

Diagram 1

The one thing that will get a punt blocked quicker than anything is a slow operation. We are constantly clocking our snappers and punters and charting all segments of a kick. Not only are we concerned with the speed and location of a snap but the ease in which the punter can receive the snap. Our long snapper must be able to deliver a catchable ball and execute his blocking assignment. We target the snap and the get off (the time between the ball hits the punter’s hand to his foot), and then add the two times together to get a total operation time. The following are our targeted goals for operation: 1. Snap — .79 or better 2. Get Off — 1.2 or better 3. Total Operation — 1.99 or better The hang time is calculated in relation to the distance of the punt. Our target hang time is 4.1 seconds for a 40-yard punt, however, the longer the punt, the longer the hang time goal. We add 10 seconds for every yard over 40 yards. Example: a 45yard punt should have a hang time of 4.6 seconds. Obviously it is a tough goal, but it gives us a benchmark to hit with our punters. As I mentioned before, we are a zone protection team. Our protection is based off gap assignments that can change if the personal protector does not feel we have either the numbers or the angles to protect the launch point. Our personal protector is coached to maintain a zone protection unless we get into overload, stacked or even safe punt situations. We have the flexibility to change zone assignments or to change to a man scheme if needed. One of the advantages of a spread punt is that it exposes and spreads the block team’s intentions. It is important to change your protection from game to game so that the block team has a difficult time executing a planned

block. Depth off the line of scrimmage and staying in tandem with adjacent lineman are critical to the integrity of the protection. We try to create this depth with footwork. The initial movement is with the set foot. This movement is not a big step. It is a short balance step straight back to establish a true vertical position off the line of scrimmage. With eyes on the assigned gap we stab with our inside hand into the inside gap to help the protector inside. We have a “help your neighbor” mentality. The second step is with the post foot and it is a drop step. This step is critical to getting distance from the line of scrimmage and maintaining square shoulders. Again, this second step is straight back on a true vertical set. The third and forth steps really happen simultaneously. After the drop step with the post foot, we gather our base with a short kick and a gather of our feet to establish a good power base. Once the power base has been established, a punch is delivered off the outside foot. We want to establish inside leverage fit on the defender keeping our body between him and the launch point. Once contact is made, we press our feet into the defender to clear the pocket and the launch point. We coach an aggressive release to maintain square shoulders from the punch through the release into the “net.”

Diagram 2

With the most important part, protection of the punt, completed we now focus on getting into the coverage part of the punt. The key to great coverage is to play at full speed through landmarks until the ball is located. When the ball is in the middle of the field, the guards will cover through a landmark 10 yards down the field at the goal posts. The tackles will cover to a landmark 10 yards down the field at the hash. The wings will cover to a landmark 10 yards down the field at the top of the field numbers. Once the ball is located the principle of keeping the ball “Inside and In Front” takes over. The initial landmarks of the six core players are distributed over two-thirds of the field. The gunners, long snapper and person-

al protectors are “head hunters”. Their fit is on the ball carrier. The fit of the guards, tackles and wings are on leverage points to the ballcarrier. They must use distance and space to “choke” the ball carrier. They squeeze the noose around the returner in relation to the location of their teammate’s position. Coverage is all about relationship! Players must keep the ball in front of them at all times and understand what the blockers are trying to do to them.

Diagram 3

One of the coaching points we use contin-

uously at the University of Georgia is “finish the drill”. Finishing a punt comes down to making the play by putting the returner on the ground or causing a turnover. I don’t want to insult your football knowledge by teaching tackling, but I would like to share some coaching points we use to “finish the drill”. Again, we teach the players to keep the ball inside and in front while adjusting to coverage lane changes if a teammate gets held up. Players must always be aware of the ball, their teammates and the return team’s blocking scheme in the return attempt. We coach a concept called “come to balance”. As it implies, at a given distance from the ball we try to regain a great football body position while continuing to adjust to the returner and the blockers. A critical coaching point is, “When is the right time and distance to come to balance?” There are many times when a player should be in great position to make a tackle but is not able to bring himself under enough control to but his body on the returner. There will be times when one of the gunners will take a shot at a great hit, but most of the time plays

are made by the guys who have come to balance and placed their body in good leverage positions.

Diagram 4

There are many complex dynamics to the greatest play of the great game of football. All the intricacies of this one play make it exciting to coach. Every punt attempt is a unique experience to build on and learn from. Like anything else in football, teach the fundamentals and select players who will unselfishly take pride in their performance so the whole team can benefit. Again, I would like to thank AFCAfor this opportunity to present the University of Georgia Pride way of executing the most significant play in football, the punt.

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AFCA Guidelines Reg ar d in g Probation
(Note: These guidelines have been prepared in conjunction with Article Nine of the AFCA Code of Ethics. It is meant to clarify the actions that are taken by the AFCA when a member’s institution is on NCAA or NAIA probation). III. The coach who leaves an institution in good standing and moves to another institution which has “major” probation problems not brought about by the new head coach: The first two restrictions listed in Section I will apply to the head coach, since any success his present team enjoys will be due in part because of advantages gained by breaking NCAA regulations before his arrival. The head coach can take part in the following: 1. The coach is eligible to serve on the panel that does the voting on the USA Today/ESPN weekly football poll. 2. The coach can serve on AFCA committees, speak at the AFCA national convention and contribute to AFCA publications. 3. The coach can take part in all-star games.

I. The coach that creates a “major” probation problem at his present institution: The coach must abide by the following ruling until the major probation is lifted: 1. His institution is not eligible to be voted on in the USA Today/ESPN weekly football poll. 2. The coach is not eligible for AFCA Coach of the Year honors, and his name will not appear on such ballots. 3. The coach is not eligible to serve on the panel that does the voting for the USA Today/ESPN weekly football poll. 4. The coach cannot serve on any AFCA committee, speak at the AFCA national IV. AFCA probation is not affected by convention or contribute to any AFCA delayed probation. publication. If an institution cannot take part in tele5. The coach cannot take part in any all- vised games, but gets its television penalstar games. ties delayed a year because of a previous television commitment, there will not be a II. The coach that creates a “major” delay from the AFCA. It is our feeling that probation problem at his present insti- a coach would be punished instead. tution and moves to another institution Therefore, the AFCA will have the televiwhich is clear of that status: sion penalty go along with the probation The restrictions listed in Section I will fol- period. low the coach to his new institution, with one exception. His new institution is eligible to be Failure to adhere to these standards voted on in the USA Today/ESPN weekly shall be grounds for probation, suspenfootball poll. sion or expulsion from this organization.

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