By Shane Fogarty, Assistant Football Coach, Fordham University
Special teams set the tempo of the game with the first play, fast and aggressive in everything we do. What is accomplished on special teams works in conjunction with our offensive and defensive systems to achieve one common goal: a win.
On the field, we use a teaching progression to develop our players. We start most phases with individual drill work in the form of a circuit and eventually progress to both group and team drills.
Punt Block Circuit
It is very important that players on the punt block unit understand everyone must do their job in order to get a block executed. We as coaches must also do a great job getting the right personnel in positions to be successful. You want players that understand the importance of the unit and have enough athletic ability to get to the block point.
The circuit we use involves four drills necessary to develop the techniques used by players on our punt block unit. The first time through the circuit we will do three of the drills to allow multiple reps for each player. The second day, we will utilize all of the drills.
Align in a sprinter’s stance with a flat back and the dominant hand down. Eighty percent of the weight should be on the front hand and foot while crowding the line of scrimmage. The front hand should be behind the ball with the player’s head behind his hand. His head and eyes should be focused on the ball so he can explode vertical with low pad level for the first three steps. A proper takeoff is the first step in getting to the block point.
Setup – Place the chute on the field running parallel with the sideline. Have a coach take a knee under the chute or use a snap stick to provide ball movement and simulate cadence. Place cones at the desired distance from the chute to provide a finish.
Focus of Drill – Maintain pad level while exploding off the ball. In the first three steps, players should be able to gain five yards.
Coaching Points – Make sure players are keying the ball by varying the cadence. Head and eyes should be up as players explode through the chute. Finish through the cone.
Block Point Drill
Understanding the angle to the block point is critical to success. Once a player has reached the proper depth, he must bend and use the correct technique to take the ball off the punter’s foot.
The block point may be adjusted on a weekly basis but is usually around 9 yards from the line of scrimmage. Upon reaching the block point, the player should be bent at the waist and shoot his hands out, taking the ball off the punter’s foot. A player’s head and eyes need to be focused on the ball with arms extended, palms facing down, and index fingers
overlapping. Players should accelerate through the block point.
Setup – Place the bottom of the hoop five yards from the line of scrimmage. Have a simulated snap and cadence so players can key the ball for the takeoff. Coach at the
block point will take a knee and have a football in hand to extend as the players approach.
Focus of Drill – Maintain pad level while exploding off the ball. Bend and bring outside shoulder across the body while moving closer to the block point. Bend and shoot hands out to the extended ball. See the ball and take it off the punter’s foot.
Coaching Points – Make sure players are taking the proper angles and seeing the ball. They should accelerate through the block point and scoop and score if the ball comes out of the coach’s hand.
Dip and Drive Drill
When attacking protection, it is imperative to have low pad level and not give the opposition any area to punch. Prior to contact, we want our rushers to dip the shoulder closest to the block and “grab grass” while clearing the hip of the man in protection.
Edge and outside rushers want to take an angle that crosses the block point while middle rushers must run by the punter on his kicking leg side. It is important to not run into or rough the kicker. Any penalty by thisunit can be detrimental to overall success. you must never put your defense back on the field once you have forced the offense to punt.
Setup – Use cones to mark off the block point 9 yards from the line of scrimmage. Simulate a snap and block before reaching the block point. Have a coach with a shield set up with depth and try to knock a rusher off his path as he dips and drives past. A punter will time up his kick so the rusher will be able to take the punt off his foot while accelerating past the block point.
Focus of Drill – Maintain pad level while exploding off the ball. Dip and drive past the block with the proper angel to the block point. See the ball and take it off the punter’s foot. Scoop and score with execution of the block.
Coaching Points – Players must have great pad level and the ability to bend to be successful in the drill. Lean into the shield and clear the hip of the blocker on the way to the block point. Bend at both the knees and waist to scoop and score. Palms should be up and hands underneath the ball.
Fight And Finish Drill
When using man blocking schemes in returns, it is important to develop individual blocking fundamentals. Upon release of the player’s man, he must lock out the proper arm and force a release opposite his leverage. He must trail the back shoulder of his man and widen him with short punches.
Your rusher must not let his man backdoor him to the returner. Always maintain leverage on the side of the returner and key the hip to alert when the coverage man breaks down. When his hip sinks, the rusher must break down and square up his man. He must move his feet and attack while he redirects back up the field toward the returner.
Setup – Use cones to mark off the coverage lanes and the returner. Simulate a snap and cadence to allow for a great takeoff. The coverage man starts when the punt rusher gets to the second cone. Once the coverage man reaches the fourth cone, he must redirect and work upfield toward the fifth cone.
Focus of Drill – Stay in phase when tracking the coverage. Understand what the return is attempting to accomplish. Use feet and hands to create space for the returner.
Coaching Points – Stay in proper leverage on the coverage man. Eyes must be focused on the hip of the man. Players must move their feet and be physical with their punch to create space. Constantly work to finish the block as the coverage reacts to the return.