Coordinating Special Teams Success
Dale Lennon Head Coach University of North Dakota Grand Forks, N.D.
n the spring of 1999, I became the Head Coach of the University of North Dakota football team. My immediate concern was what role would I play in the preparation of this football team on the field. I had previously served as a defensive coordinator at UND and an offensive coordinator as a head coach at the University of Mary. I realized, however, that the demands of being a head coach at UND would be restrictive in being a coordinator on either side of the ball. My best solution was found within the special teams. The more I examined the advantages of being a head coach and special teams coordinator, the more I liked this concept. I found that the major benefits were: • An opportunity to work with the punters and kickers as their position coach. • An opportunity to work with players on both sides of the ball on a daily basis. • It frees up your offensive and defensive coordinators to concentrate on their side of the ball. • It gives special teams a true sense of importance when the head coach is directly involved. • In game situations, it helps in making crucial decisions when the head coach is the special teams coach. Once I made the decision that I was going to become the special teams coordinator, organization, structure and evaluation became a major focus. Organization In coordinating the special teams, I believe it is very important to delegate responsibility for the overall operation of special teams preparation. With each special team, one coach is given the assignment of being responsible for the design and execution of that special team unit. Three to four other coaches will be assigned to assist with the technique work required at each position. The delegation of our special teams assignment breakdown occurs as follow. Punt Team Tackles & Slots Coach Snapper/Guards/ PersonalProtector Coach Bullet Coach Punter Coach Punt Block & Return Interior Rush Coach Left Perimeter Coach
Right Perimeter Coach Return Man Coach PAT.& FG Team Interior Linemen Wings & Ends Coach Holder & Kicker Coach PAT & FG Block Team Interior Linemen Coach Perimeter Block Side Coach Perimeter Block Safe Coach Kickoff Return Team Front Line Coach Tight Ends & Fullbacks Coach Return Man Coach Kickoff Cover Team Right Perimeter Cover Side Coach Left Perimeter Cover Side Coach Middle Cover Coach Kicker Coach The assignments are made according to the experiences of the coaching staff. Generally, the defensive coaches will be responsible for the Block teams (Punt, PAT, and FG) and the Kickoff cover team. The offensive coaches will be responsible for the punt team, kickoff return team and the PAT/FG team. As the head coach, I am responsible for the punt team and the kickoff return team and will oversee all other teams. Structure I believe it is very important to have a practice schedule for your specialty performers. At UND, we use a period structured set-up for our practices. On our special teams bulletin board, I will post a specialty practice schedule (Diagram A) along with the special teams depth chart and any information pertaining to the special teams unit that we are practicing that day. Our punters and kickers will have their assigned individual technique periods along with group times when they are working with other position groups. This gives our kickers and punters an opportunity to stay involved with the team during the course of a practice (Diagram A). Evaluations Kickers One of the most difficult parts of coaching the special teams is finding a fair and
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identify the strength and weaknesses of your kicker at certain points on the field (Diagram B). Punters Our punters chart (Diagram C) will record the punter’s get-off time, hang time and the distance of the punt from the line of scrimmage. My biggest emphasis in punting is the get-off time. The get-off time is the amount of time that expires between when the ball touches the punterís hands and the sound of the foot kicking the ball. The hang time and the distance of the punt are naturally very important, but my first concern is getting the punt off. If the punters get-off time is over 1.3, the distance of the punt may be irrelevant. Snappers As with our punters, my biggest concern with our snappers is their snap time. The goal of our snappers is to get the ball to the punters within 0.90 seconds. The combination of the snap time and the get off time should be at 2.2 seconds. The next major concern is the accuracy of the snap. As with our kickers, I want to have a visual reference to verify the accuracy of the snap (Diagram D). Accuracy will have a direct correlation on the get-off time of the punter. By charting our snappers in a pre-practice session, it becomes obvious who are the top snappers. Charting is also a great way to evaluate your top snapperís strengths and weaknesses, therefore allowing you to implement specific drills for individual improvement. Final Evaluation On the day before a game, we use a special teams rehearsal script. This script has become a very important element of our game week preparation. Our scripted routine allows us to go through game-like situations to clarify our sideline management and make sure our personnel substitutions and our two-deep depth chart is accurate. This review will only take 15 minutes and is run at the end of practice. Our team review script is as follows (Friday Special Teams Script). Summary Special teams play is one-third of the game and can be the difference between a win and a loss. I firmly believe it is very
efficient way of evaluating your players. A big part of our evaluation process is charting. Each week, we will have times assigned to chart specific skills. By keeping a season charting log, the coach develops a performance record of his special teams performers. Once a weak, our kickers will
chart 10 kick offs for distance and hangtime. They will also chart their field goal accuracy (Diagram B) from different points on the field. In our field goal chart, I like to have a visual account of the point where the ball crossed the goal posts. By recording the accuracy point, you will be able to
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important that the assigned coaches recognize the importance of each team. If top players need to be assigned a special teams role, do not hesitate to make that assignment. Never underestimate the importance of special teams play. There are obviously so many more elements that go into a well-prepared special teams unit, but by starting with organization, structure and evaluation, you will be well on your way to special teams success.
Friday Special Teams Script
• 1st - Kickoff Return (Kicking South) -Gather on 50-yd line (Return Rt or Lt) w/Head Coach • 1st - Offense (1 Play on the South 35-yardline) -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 1st - Punt (Punting North - Fair Catch on the North 20) -Gather on Sideline w/Head Coach • 1st - Defense (1 Play on the North 20) -Signal Defense • 1st - Punt Return (Punting South on the North 20 & Return to North 20) -Gather on Sideline w/Linebacker Coach • 1st - Offense (1 Play on the North 20 - Red Zone — Score TD) -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 1st - PAT (1 Kick on the North End Zone) -Huddle on Sideline w/Offensive Line Coach • 1st - Kickoff (Kicking North to the North 20) -Huddle on Sideline w/Defensive Line Coach • 2nd - Defense (1 Play on the North 20) -Signal Defense • 2nd - Punt Return (Punting South on the North 20 & return to the North 20) -Gather on Sideline w/Linebacker Coach • 2nd - Offense (1 Play - On North 20 - Red Zone — Score TD) -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 2nd - PAT (North End Zone) •End of 1st Half -Huddle on Sideline w/Offensive Line Coach • 2nd - Kickoff Return Team (Kicking North - Return South & Score TD) -Huddle on Sideline w/Head Coach • 2nd - Kickoff Team (35) (Kicking North) -Huddle on Sideline w/Defensive Line Coach • 2nd - Offense (1 Play) On North 45 going South -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 2nd - Punt (Fair Catch) Punting South on North 45 -Huddle on Sideline w/Head Coach • 1st - Kickoff onside (BonzaI!!!) (On 35) Kicking North -Huddle on Sideline w/Defensive Line Coach • 1st - Hands Team - Kangaroo (Opposite Onside Kick) Kicking North - Returning South -Huddle on Sideline w/Head Coach • 1st - Defense (RUN 1 PLAY) - On North 35 Defending the South -Signal Defense (Defensive Line Coach/Linebacker Coach) • 1st - Defense Punt Safe (Punt South) On North 35 Defending the South -Punt Safe signaled in from sideline. • 1st - Offense - Sudden Change (On South 35 Going South) -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 1st - Defense - Sudden Change (On South 20 Defending the South) -Huddle on Sideline w/Defensive Line Coach-Linebacker Coach • 1st - Offense - 1 Play on South 20 Going South (1 Play to five-yard line) -Huddle on Sideline w/Runningback Coach • 1st - Offense Goal Line (1 Play) South 5 Going South -Signal Offense • 1st - Field Goal (No Time Outs - Clock Running) South 5 Kicking South -Hustle in from sideline (Offensive Line Coach) • 1st - Defense on 20-yd line (1 Play) South 20 Defending the South -Signal Defense (Defensive Line Coach/Linebacker Coach) • 1st - Defense Goal Line (1 Play - Set up FG Block) South 5 Defending the South -Signal Defense (Defensive Line Coach/Linebacker Coach) • 1st - FG Block (1 Play) South 3 Defending the South -Signal Defense (Linebacker Coach)
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• AFCA Summer Manual — 2002 •