By Thomas MacPherson, Head Football Coach, Baker County High School, Fla., “Coach Mac’s Play Fast Football” Blog
The Shield Punt, in my opinion, is the most efficient way to protect your punts and cover your punts at the junior high and high school level. It gives you the ability to get seven special team’s players downfield and into coverage very quickly, and by alignment alone, makes punts very difficult for opponents to go after and block.
Although most people will tell you they love the Shield Punt for the coverage aspect, I love it because of the simplicity built into its protections. With this built-in simplicity, we can spend adequate time on protection and coverages and then add slight wrinkles to our alignment each week to keep opponents off-balance when determining how to come after our punts.
In the 5 years since we have been using The Shield Punt, we have only had two punts blocked and one returned for a touchdown against us – in over 200 punts (making it a very efficient special team’s scheme, in my opinion).
(VIDEO) The Shield Punt – Detailed. Running Time 30:20.
The biggest key to measuring the success of your special teams is to look at field position and game changing plays. The punt can change field position either way in a hurry, and a blocked punt can be absolutely demoralizing.
Let’s look at some field-position statistics and how they relate to points. We are going to talk about TD’S only in this study because I feel it is a much more important metric in high school football (and junior high) because of the overall lack of truly effective kicking games at that level.
The following statistics are taken as a compilation of our last three seasons of games.
Opponent’s Starting Position
& Percentage Chance of a TD
Own Goal Line to Own 20-Yard Line: 5% Chance of TD
Own 20-Yard Line to Own 40-Yard Line: 15% Chance of TD
Own 40-Yard Line to Our 40-Yard Line: 23% Chance TD
Our 40-Yard Line to Our 20-Yard Line: 35% Chance TD
Our 20-Yard Line to Our Goal Line: 66% Chance of TD
There are several different field-position charts out there for college and NFL teams that are way more detailed than the one I am showing. The simple point of the matter is that, even in high school football, starting field position has a direct impact on the percentage of touchdowns scored by your opponents.
So if our punt protection and coverage can be rock solid and effective, then we can give our defense a much greater chance to be successful.
Positive & Negative Game Changers
Now I want to look at some positive and negative game changers that I will be looking at and tracking for this upcoming season with my team’s punt team.
As such, we’ve decided that we’re going to assign each of the following punt team plays with either a positive or negative point value and keep a running tally chart to determine if we are winning or losing the “Game Changing Plays” category for our punt team.
Positive Plays (Punting Game)
- 39-Yards Or More Net On Punt: +1 Point
- Inside The 10-Yard Line: +1 Point
- Successful Fake: +1 Point
- Turnover: +2 Points
- Touchdown (Turnover or Fake): +3 Points
Negative Plays (Punting Game)
- 20-Yards Or Below Net On Punt: -1 Point
- Punt Team Penalty: -1 Point
- Unsuccessful Fake: -1 Point
- Blocked Punt or Safety: -2 Points
- Touchdown Allowed: -3 Points
From game-to-game, week-to-week and season-to-season, we’re going to analyze our punt team productivity and chart each one to determine if we are winning or losing the explosive play category in the punt game. From there, we can determine if a particular mistake continues to rear it’s ugly head as a common thread and we can work to correct the problem.
Shield Punt Executed
Let’s examine the actual operation and keys for executing the Shield Punt.
DIAGRAM 1: Shield Punt Formation.
Space: We set up 2-yard splits between our guards and tackles, while positioning a 3-yard split between the tackle and TE. The idea is to get everybody wider so they do not have a chance to get to the punt unless the opposing team chooses to put four defenders on the shield.
Time: We carefully evaluate and examine our operation time on Shield Punts to see if we can handle double-A-Gap pressure and four on the shield.
The normal operating time for our punts have been measured as:
- 0.8 seconds from snapper to punter’s hands
- 1.2 seconds from punter’s hands to his punting foot
The makes your total operation time around 2.0 seconds from long snap to punt. We have found that if you can execute your punts in 2.0 seconds or less, then four opposing defenders positioned on the shield will almost never be an issue for you.
(I say “almost” because you have to take into account bad snaps, mishandled snaps, and poor steps by the punter.)
Blocking: If we can operate in 2.0 second or less, we’ll utilize a blocking scheme where we “man-block both sides man” – which means that we will account for the three widest rushers from outside-in.
We start our count from the outside every time. In the Shield Punt scheme, you can get guys out and into good coverage lanes relatively quickly. We fully realize, though, that if they bring pressure with 10 defenders, and with two coming in each A-Gap, we must be extremely sound and efficient with our operating time.
Punt coverage players are taught to redirect their assigned man for two steps and then release downfield. Blockers must drop step with their outside foot, and then run aggressively through the inside number of their assigned man.
If a punt coverage blocker can cross an opposing player’s face, we will then allow the opponent a release toward the shield – because after crossing his face – his alignment and angle will not allow him to block the punt.
Our shield personnel will have their heels at 7-yards and we instruct them to block and protect as if they are standing on the edge of a cliff and cannot get knocked backward a single step. They must protect everything from their inside-to-out, trying not to move from the shield.
The bigger the bodies you can put on the shield, the better – because they’ll create a better pocket for the punter and force punt rushers to take a wider track toward the punter. BUT, bigger-bodied personnel will NOT cover downfield as well as smaller, more athletic players, though, so it is a trade off.
Adjustments: If you use smaller bodies, you may want your shield using more of a man concept. The first adjustment we will make if we have trouble with four defenders on the shield is to block zone on the backside and protect the inside gap first.
Our splits will then be cut in half from normal distance and we will have our inside foot back. The guard has responsibility for the A-Gap, the tackle has the B-Gap, and the tight end takes the C-Gap. This tactic is more of an aggressive style of blocking – trying to stonewall a defender and stop his inside movement. Doing so, allows them to only get a maximum of three defenders on the shield, and sometimes, when you have a good, physical guard on the zone side, he can often take care of both opposing players in the A-Gap by knocking one into the other.
Again, your operation time needs to be extremely good and efficient, because you are unchaining the widest defender to the zone side. With good splits and proper timing, however, that player will never get to your punter.
If your punter is good with directional kicks, you can also choose from which side to zone, while always punting toward the man-side, where they release to the outside.
The Rugby Punt
One new thing we will try this upcoming season is using the Rugby Punt punting style. This changes the launch point of the punter and keeps your opponent guessing with which type of block they want to use.
If they want to place four defenders on the shield with double A-Gap players, then the Rugby Punt will not only be safe, but it will get them out and leveraged quickly, while also giving your punter a chance to run for a first down.
Because you are punting from the same alignment, your opponent cannot tell which type of punt is coming. When we Rugby Punt we’ll roll to the side of the punter’s leg and that side of the protection will be responsible for the inside three rushers (or numbers 3, 4 and 5). It is similar to the zone protection and we’ll instruct blockers to keep their inside foot back. Punt coverage blockers need to redirect their assigned rusher for 2-yards inside before releasing downfield.
The right side of the Shield and Personal Protector are now responsible for punt rushers 1 and 2 coming off the edge.
The left side of the Shield use zone technique, protecting their inside-gap first. The left Shield protects the left side A-Gap first, and then outside pressure second. Remember, we are rolling away – so the inside remains a priority.
Adding a Rugby Punt option to your Shield Punt game, along with your ability to wrinkle other formations while still using shield principles, as well as carrying a couple fakes in your hip pocket that you can use periodically and you have a multiple, yet simplistic, punt scheme.
Doing all of these things will keep the heat off due to your diversity and The Shield scheme will also help you get more guys in coverage almost immediately.
I recommend charting your punt team stats (as shown above) and track your progress accordingly.
Remember, special teams are one third of the game – so don’t neglect them.
Thomas MacPherson is the Head Football Coach at Baker County High School in Glen St. Mary, Fla. He also writes a popular coaching blog called, “Coach Mac’s Play Fast Football.”
Follow Thomas MacPherson on Twitter: @CoachMac8740
Thomas MacPherson Website: Coach Mac’s Play Fast Football