Sitting it Down in the End Zone

J.W. Harper Assistant Coach Texas Southern University Houston, Texas

embers of the punt return team must consist of 10 men who have the ability to run and block and one who can field and catch the punt. Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head while those about you are losing theirs.” His words perfectly describe the punt returner. They do not lose it under pressure, because they are accustom to performing under pressure. Every opportunity should raise their blood pressure, because they are expected to make something happen. If you have ever watched the Dallas Cowboys play, you could tell when there was a punt return situation, because the fans would stand in anticipation of Deion Sanders taking it the distance. We are blessed to have such a returner by the name of Joey Jamison here at Texas Southern. He has what a punt returner must have, and that is the ability to consistently catch all types of punts in all weather conditions. Furthermore, he must have the speed and athletic ability to set it down in the end zone. Now to those who are asked to make it work — the blockers. When you are selecting these people, you look for people who can run and have the desire and ability to block in the open field. All of the punt return team members must be willing to pay the price for perfection. They must be willing to learn their assignments. We will give up size for more quickness, because they will be asked to set up walls, block man-for-man on middle return and sometimes rush the punter. On the other hand, we won’t get too small, because our opponent may run a false punt or power play at a small return unit. Here at TSU, we try to use out linebackers and defensive backs to fill these spots, but we will use anyone on the team if they are needed to play on special teams. We ask our guys to follow five don’ts. They are: 1. Don’t be offside. 2. Don’t rough the kicker. 3. Don’t let the ball hit the ground. 4. Don’t put team in bad field position. 5. Don’t clip or block below the waist. Practice 1. We will practice all aspects of the punt return, individually and as a unit. 2. We will practice game situations, example: field position, left and right hash, coming out or going in. 3. We will get better every day we work on special teams.

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Scout their Punt Team 1. What are their punter ’s stats? 2. Where does he have a tendency to kick, hang time etc? 3. Snapper and punter’s get off time. The punt return team must take pride in the fact that the return is the biggest offensive play of the game. Score or set up a score.

Diagram 1A: 5-on-4 Drill Left Return

Diagram 1B: 5-on-4 Drill Right Return

Set players up on the field every five yards and have defenders on your whistle to run downfield and turn and attack wall. The returner (R) is part of this drill and he must make the fifth defender miss (Diagram 1A).

Diagram 2: B on B

Slam point of attack slide two techniques turn and run (Diagram 2).

• AFCA Summer Manual — 1999 •

Drill: Gauntlet Returner will catch the football thrown by coach. He will run a Z cut between cones. He will then run at the middle barrel. The coach will step right or left and the runner will go opposite (Diagram 3).

Diagram 3: Gauntlet

Diagram 4: Bump and Run

Drill: Bump and Run Defenders will sprint upfield as fast as they can run. Blockers will run with them and jab the inside shoulder of defender. Jab does not have to be a hard one. Your jab is meant to slow him down where you can keep an inside-out upfield position. We run this drill because we will often run a middle return (Diagram 4). Right Return Assignments and Alignments LC/RC: Align three yards. Inside and five yards deep on outside gunners. Keep your cushion and block inside out. No. 7: Align on outside leg of end man on line of scrimmage if in tight punt formation. If in spread punt, align on outside shoulder of upback in a three-point stance and go after punter. Then, continue as a clean-up man behind the wall. No. 6: Align on outside shoulder of the right tackle in a three-point stance draw his block and fold back inside and block the snapper. No. 5: Align on outside shoulder of right

guard in a three-point stance, and attack the outside earhole of guard. Turn right along the line of scrimmage and follow No. 4 into the wall. Find the first defender between you and No. 4 and block him. No. 4: Align on inside shoulder of right guard in a three-point stance and attack the nearside earhole of the center. Turn right along the line of scrimmage and follow No. 3 into the wall. Find the first defender between you and No. 3 and block him. No. 3: Align head up on guard in a three-point stance and slam hard into his outside ear. Turn right along the line of scrimmage and follow No. 2 into the wall. Find the first defender between you and No. 2 and block him. No. 2: Align on outside eye of tackle in a three-point stance and slam outside earhole of tackle. Then turn right and release where No. 1 vacates and head for returner. You are the lead blocker of the wall. Find the first man between you and the returner and take him out! No. 1: Align on outside leg of end man on line of scrimmage or left upback if in spread punt formation. Get in a threepoint stance and go after the punter. If he gets the punt off, continue past him and arc release to get in position to take him out! Rover: Align 20 yards from the line of scrimmage and block the first man down to the left side of the returner, but never pass up threat to the returners. R: Catch and secure the ball and look for No. 1. Run directly at him and stay close to the wall. This will allow you room to escape. Coaching Point: One wall is set with everyone five yards apart, turn and look inside. Block the first defender nearest the ballcarrier. When the ballcarrier passes

you, slide, then run and block any blockable defender. Do not block behind the runner (Diagrams 5 and 6).

Diagram 6: Left Return

Short Punts Rover should field all of these. If high and short, fair catch the ball! If punt is a line drive and short, field the ball and head up the nearest sideline. Blocker should turn to the nearest defender and maintain block. The rover is responsible for all peter calls on short punts, 20 yards or less. When the ball is uncatchable, a peter call alerts your teammates to stop blocking and retreat from the area around the returner. The returner should always go in the direction of the bad kick. This will allow your teammates a vantage point. Special Teams Will Make a Difference When you think back on the games you won or the games you lost. It is almost certain that your special teams made some big plays. This brings to mind a story I read. It is as follows: As the old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally, catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the standard starfish would die if left until the morning sun. “But the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish,” countered the old man. “How can your effort make a difference?” The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to the safety of the waves. “It makes a difference to this one,” he said. - Donald Quimby

Diagram 5: Right Return

• AFCA Summer Manual — 1999 •

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