OFA Coaches Monthly 2009 OFSAA Special Edition
IN THIS ISSUE: - QB Techniques - Becoming a Complete Back - Teaching WR Skills - Combination Blocks - Building a Hungry DL - LB Drills - DB Footwork - Wall Punt Returns - The Art of Punting - Kicking FGs - Kick Return Rules
OFA Coaches Monthly Advanced Level Techniques for Today's Quarterback by: Jeff Hancock I have had the fortune of coaching at many different levels through the years. One thing that I have found is that at the ‘Non D-I levels’ it is hard to find a quarterback with good mechanics. The higher levels take their pick from the kids that are gifted athletically as well as mechanically. This becomes especially tough when you run an offense that revolves around the pass. This article will focus on what I believe to be the proper mechanics of the QB throw. From the setup/stance to the follow through, I have broken down the QB throw into 4 different phases. Obviously, there are phases leading up to the set-up/stance depending on the type of drop and whether your QB is going out of the ‘gun’ or under center. The four phases include: stance, cocking or loading phase, throw or ‘acceleration’ phase, and finally the follow-through phase. The Stance Phase The first phase picks up the last step in a QB drop. With this phase the QB will stand with his feet shoulder-width apart, side facing with his eyes on the target. The football is held up by the ear with both hands on the football, knees slightly bent to afford for bounce if the need arises in change of direction. The rest of the body is upright, with the center of gravity centered over the feet. Both feet should be perpendicular to the imaginary line from the QB to the intended target. The purpose of this phase is to achieve balance and stability to prepare for the second phase (See Photo 1).
Photo 1 Key coaching points for this phase include: weight balanced between feet that are shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and ball being held up by the ear with both hands. The Cocking/Loading Phase With this step the QB will rotate his hips back slightly, cock shoulders back, and bring the ball up and
OFA Coaches Monthly back while raising his elbows. The elbow of the throwing arm will be further back than the ball in this phase. The QB will continue to keep his eyes on the intended target in this phase. The purpose is to create the greatest potential energy build-up for maximum force delivery incorporating the entire body during the ‘acceleration phase’ (See Photo 2).
Photo 2 Key coaching points for this phase include: hip rotation, bring the ball back and up, keeping throwing shoulder further back than the ball, and both knees slightly bent while keeping weight evenly balanced. The Throw/Acceleration Phase From the cocked position the transfer of weight can begin by taking a step with the front foot into the direction the QB is going to throw. This will help transfer the ‘rotary’ motion of the upper body into ‘linear’ motion. The ‘uncoiling’ of the hips and shoulders must begin at the same time the QB is taking the step with his front foot and pushing off his back foot. He must also bring his non-throwing arm out and across his body without stopping, thus helping in gaining momentum for the hips and shoulders to turn. All of this is done quickly and with the eyes on the intended target. A lot of mechanical problems that young QB’s have are in this phase. The first and most obvious problem is the ‘locking’ of the front leg. This will cause the QB to halt the motion of the lower body and force the throw to become ‘all upper body’ (See Photo 3). QB’s that have a problem with this will tend to have their balls sail high and also create more soreness than normal in the throwing arm. Another reason the QB doesn’t want to lock out his front leg is that if he were able to take a shot from a defender on that leg there is no give to prevent injury. As this type of throwing motion continues to go unchanged, they will have the feeling of coming up and over with the ball and their non-throwing arm will simulate this motion instead of coming out and across the body in a nice, fluid motion (See Photo 4).
OFA Coaches Monthly
Photo 4 Another problem that arises in a lot of QB’s is when they have their knee bent too much in the previous two phases. In other words they didn’t ‘climb the hill’ on their drop; rather, they sank down and ‘sat in the bucket’ (See Photo 5). In some cases this is what causes trouble in a hurry in that the QB ‘opens’ up his front leg too much. The front foot should be pointing at the intended target with a step by the front leg in that direction (See Photo 6). This type of step by the QB will usually result in the ball sailing wide especially for a right-hander throwing to his left and vice versa.
OFA Coaches Monthly
Photo 6 Key coaching points for this phase including pointing the front foot at the intended target, keeping eyes on target, coinciding transfer of weight from back foot to front foot with rotation of upper body, and â€˜throwing ball from ear.â€™ Make sure the QB is not opening up too much or stepping out too far (See Photo 7).
OFA Coaches Monthly
Photo 7 The Follow Through Phase The final phase is known as the Follow Through Phase. This phase should find the QB bringing his throwing arm through the throw with thumb of throwing hand pointing down to “opposite pant pocket” as the upper body comes through and leans forward with a slight bend in the front leg. The back foot will naturally be lifted off the ground to help balance the thrower (creating an “S” like shape with throwing arm and leg) as the non-throwing arm swings off to the side to straighten the hips and shoulders so that the body is facing the target. The eyes will have continued to stay on the intended target through all four phases. This final phase, in bio mechanical terms would be considered “extension at release.” If it is advantageous for a move to be compact at the beginning of the propulsive phase (Cocking Phase), they should be extended or stretched at the end (Follow Through). Also with a resultant effect, a proper follow through will allow ball to be more accurate because it will cut down tendency to deviate from desire direction (See Photo 8).
OFA Coaches Monthly Photo 8 Key coaching points for this phase include: lead arm should continue coming across body to help balance body with thumb of throwing hand pointing down, throwing arm should also continue through the throw, and body of QB should be facing the intended target when finished. Finally, here are a few other things that are important to know to successfully throw a football: Throwing Hand Placement on Football Although I have seen many successful QB’s hold a football differently based on hand size and type of ball, generally the throwing hand should be placed with the middle and ring finger just over the laces, with the little finger just touching the laces. The index finger should be above the laces usually placed somewhere around the “white stripe.” The thumb should be placed just far enough away to still have some “daylight” between the palm and the football (See Photo 9). QB’s that “palm” the ball (palm touching the ball) tend to throw a wobbly ball without much spiral.
Photo 9 Taking Good Drops There are many different ways involving different terminology to describe and coach a successful three and five-step drop. The way that I have always explained a three-step drop is with one big “separation” step opening at “six o’clock” to get the QB away from the line of scrimmage. The following two steps are “gather” steps to get the QB set up to throw the football. On the QB’s third step he should be in position for the first phase (The Stance Phase) described above. With the two gather steps the QB should find his feet shoulder width apart with body weight centered over feet. Another important aspect to teach in the drop is to “climb the hill.” This means that as the QB drops he will rise up so that as he hits his third step he will be standing as tall as he can be while still having a slight bend in both knees. A good way to start teaching a drop is to have a straight line painted on the field so that the QB works
OFA Coaches Monthly on dropping straight back. This can become a problem when the QB isn’t stepping at “six o’clock” on all three steps. Drifting can become a real problem in a hurry when they drift into the path of a rushing DE. With this drill you want to make sure that the QB isn’t leaning back on the third step. This happens when the QB gets the momentum of his upper body going faster than his lower body (See Photo 10).
Photo 10 The five-step drop involves three “separation” steps while ending with two “gather” steps. I have seen many different ways to take a five-step drop, but this is the one that I have found that works the best for us. When taking a snap from the shotgun position the timing for a three-step throw works out with the QB taking the snap, resetting his feet, and throwing. A five-step drop usually times up with two reset steps by the QB when throwing. Using “Eyes as a Weapon” When explaining the four phases of a QB throw I indicated that the QB’s eyes should be on the intended target. This is an important coaching point, but as the QB takes his drop he should be using his “eyes as a weapon.” This means that he needs to “look off” the defenders, or look away from where he will be throwing the ball during the course of his drop. Once the QB has reached his final step in a drop and starts the first phase of the throw he will then look at his intended target. Many QB’s don’t realize how much time defenders spend in practice reading the eyes of the QB to let them know which way he will throw. This is a bad habit of many young QB’s that needs to be drilled in practice. A good way to start the coaching progression of this is to have the QB look straight down the field on his drop. This will also help reaffirm his thought on pre-snap coverage reads or change them based on what the safeties are doing.
OFA Coaches Monthly Becoming a Complete Back: Teaching Your RBs to Protect Your QB by: Mike Williams During my career I have had the privilege to coach some outstanding running backs in high school and college. I have been fortunate to coach backs that have given me their undivided attention and were excited about reaching their potential as complete running backs. Several of the backs I have had the opportunity to coach went on and played in the NFL. Tony Smith, Chris Buckhalter and Harold Shaw all had successful careers. All of these young men were good athletes but had technique and fundamental flaws when it came to being a complete back. They were good rushers and receivers but there is definitely more to being the complete back. A glaring weakness with most of the backs I’ve coached was their inability to protect the quarterback. Every offense I have been involved in had backs in the protection; most of the time the back was mismatched because of size, the angle of the blitz, knowledge of where the blitz was coming from and the momentum of the blitzer. In order to get on the game field at the University of Tennessee-Martin as a running back there are several things a back must do in order to play: 1. Protect the football – no fumbles 2. Protect the Quarterback – no sacks or pressures 3. Know the offense – no mental mistakes 4. Play physical 5. Be a great receiver 6. Practice and play with intensity 7. Be a leader on and off the field Protecting the quarterback is critical to the success of any offense. We work extremely hard on the proper fundamentals and techniques to be the best pass protectors in the nation. We teach pass protection in our offense one-way. We are going to attack the blitzer. We never try to catch or position block a blitzer. We teach our backs to use their hands and explode up and through the blitzer. I discourage a cut-block on drop back protections. Some may ask ‘why?’ Well, when you cut block, several things can happen. One, you can make a great block. Two, you can miss the man. Three, you can cut and the blitzer can fall into the quarterback and cause an injury. Two out of three are bad! We do drills every practice to improve our ability to protect the quarterback. Some of the drills are low intensity and some are high intensity drills. We always do a progression to maximize the results. Normally in a five-step protection we will block linebackers or blitzes coming from the secondary. First we inch closer to the line of scrimmage without giving the defense a key. We always scan the defense and point to our protection. We point on run plays as well even though it means nothing. When the ball is snapped we will take a six-inch check step with our inside foot and burn our eyes on the potential blitzer. The check step allows us to stay square on the potential blitzer, read the blitz, get closer to the
OFA Coaches Monthly blitz and consistently gives us an inside/out advantage in the protection. When we detect a blitz coming we sprint to the block point with bend in our ankles, knees and hips. We are prepared to shoot the hands into the breastplate and explode up and through the defender. We want to punish the blitzer. We always want our inside foot near the QB and our outside foot will split the crotch of the blitzer. Our objective is to make contact as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. By making contact close to the line of scrimmage we can constrict the blitzer and reduce the area he has to make us miss. We want the outside half of our body to make contact with the inside half of the defender. After initial contact and no separation, we will maintain pressure and drive him outside and away from the QB. To get the movement we must have a wide base for balance and move our feet in a sewing machine-like manner, taking a series of very quick short choppy steps. If there is separation on contact, we will recoil and continue the drive block away from the QB. One of the key components to being a great pass protector is to see what you are about to hit. We stress using the eyes and concentrating on the belly button until we are close enough to step on the toes of the blitzer. We focus on the belly button to avoid the head and hip fakes common in most blitzers. Once we get to the toes our eyes go immediately to the target which is the inside number on the breastplate. We shoot our hands aggressively into the breastplate. You cannot hit something you do not see. We teach big eyes! Common Faults in Pass Protections: 1. Not getting a pre-snap read (locating your blitzer) 2. Failure to take a check step 3. Failure to meet the blitzer at the line of scrimmage 4. Not exploding on the rise 5. Failure to take away the inside 6. Failure to shoot the hands aggressively on the inside number 7. Failure to keep a wider base 8. Failure to keep the feet moving at all time 9. Failure to recoil after separation 10. Getting over extended We do a drill progression every day to improve and prepare for the game or practice. Below is a short list of the progressions we teach to protect the quarterback. Drills: 1. Hand/Hip explosion (one-man sled) 2. Drive block (one-man sled) 3. Step and punch 4. Line drill A. Downhill
OFA Coaches Monthly B. Angle C. Head fakes 5. Mirror drill 6. Secondary Blitz drill 7. Live drill vs. linebacker 8. Pass pro with the offensive line Drill 1: Hand/Hip Explosion Setup: One-man double action pro sled Procedure: Align the running backs in one line. The first person will strike the sled five times on command then roll and spring out when the final command is given. Execution: The running back will be on his knees with obvious bend at the hips in a cocked postion. The hands will be positioned slightly above the thighs in a cocked position. The face mask will be touching the sled pad. On the command “hit” the back will explode out of his hips shooting the hands aggressively up and through the pad. The hips should unlock and the hands should fire in an aggressive manner simultaneously driving the pad upward to an unlocked position. The back will recoil after the extension and the drill will continue to execute the remaining reps. Drill 2: Drive block (one-man sled) Setup: One-man double action pro sled Procedure: Align the running backs in one line. The back will be in a perfect three-point stance five yards away from the sled. On the command the back will sprint forward exploding out of the ankles, knees and hips while making contact with the face and shooting the hands simultaneously. The timing of the explosion is critical to the success of the drill. The back will explode up and through the sled unlocking the sled and driving the sled for five yards. The back will pump his feet like pistons using a wide base and take short choppy power steps. After driving the sled for five yards in a straight line the whistle will blow for the back to release and sprint past the sled for another five yards. Drill 3: Step and punch Setup: The backs will partner up facing each other on a solid painted line. Procedure: One back will act a as defensive player. The back on offense will work the right side target of the defensive player protecting the imaginary quarterback on his right. We will get eight reps then move to the left and get eight additional reps. The defensive player willl bend at the knees which will force the offensive player to bend at the ankles, knees and hips. We focus on being lower than the opponent. The offensive player will align his outside leg on the crotch of the defensive player. He will assume a low coiled position ready to step into the crotch. He will step into the crotch and shoot the hands up and through the breastplate of the defender, using a jab technique on the command “hit.” The jab is a quick
OFA Coaches Monthly and aggressive eight-inch strike! He will recoil for the next repetition. We will work both sides and the partners will alternate roles. Drill 4: Line Drill Setup: The backs will partner up facing each other five yards apart on a solid painted line. Procedure: One back will act as a defensive player. We will work on protecting the quarterback with the blitz coming downhill, from an angle, and one using a head fake by the defensive player. Since we are doing this drill against each other we normally do this drill about three quartersâ€™ speed to avoid injury. Each player will get two reps at each look. I will tell them which side the imaginary QB is on so I can determine if the back is positioned correctly. Remember, we want to be on the inside of the protection. Attacking the inside half of the blitzer forcing the blitzer out and away from the QB. We stress great technique. The back protecting the quarterback will stay square. He will be on the inside half of the blitzer. He must burn his eyes on the target and explode up and through the defender. He will simultaneously shoot the hands to the target and explode out of his ankles, knees and hips. He finishes the block by taking a series of quick powerful steps driving the blitzer away from the QB. Drill 5: Mirror Drill Setup: The backs will partner up facing each other six inches apart. The partners will have three yards between them to avoid stepping on each other. Procedure: On my command the defensive players will take slide steps to the right about half speed. The offensive player will mirror the defensive player and I will give the command â€œhit.â€? On the command the back will punch the proper target and focus on staying square while avoiding crossing the feet over. We are working on the target area, punch and proper footwork. We will slide them to the right and return them to the left. The backs will rotate and the progression will start over. Drills 6, 7 and 8 are self-explanatory There are many drills you can do to improve the running backs ability to protect the quarterback. Several times per week we do a crossover drill with our linebackers to get a feel for the aggressiveness and speed of the game. We do this drill full speed. Going full speed in this drill allows us the opportunity to determine our weaknesses and correct any problem we detect. A running back is not a complete player unless he is great at protecting the QB.
Teaching WR's the Critical Skills by: David Needs One of the main problems that have plagued football coaches for a long time is how to teach the necessary skills needed to play the game during the fifteen to thirty minutes in practice known as individual. Just at the wide receiver position, we must teach stance, start, footwork, route running, releases (press and open field), blocking (push blocking, wall-off, cutting, middle block), catching the ball, running with the ball, and many other skills needed to be a good wide receiver.
OFA Coaches Monthly There is a lot to be done and not enough time to do it. There are a number of great coaches who believe that individual time, where we teach and perform position skills, is the most crucial time for player development. My high school coach believed that if anything should be sacrificed in practice it would be team time, because individual skill work made a player better in both long and short term. If you visited the first practice at Carson-Newman College and then returned to the last one you would find them not to be very different; we firmly believe that individual skills and the time in which we do those drills is where you equip a player with the skills that are needed to play. When I first started coaching wide receivers over ten years ago I was amazed at how much time we wasted during individual. I also found that often when we did drills the wide receiver who was designated as the defensive player in the drill would not give a very good picture in the drill because he was either taking care of his buddy, trying to rest, or didnâ€™t know what to do, and most importantly these things slowed down the pace of practice in a negative way. At Carson-Newman College, our Head Coach Ken Sparks has a principle called 'Coaching on the Run.' Essentially what it means is we do everything at a high pace with an emphasis on increased quality reps. Thus, most wide receiver drills were not meeting this standard. My solution to the problem was to do multi-purpose drills. Multi-purpose drills are where both individuals involved in a drill are being asked to do a skill essential for the position that they play. Thus at the wide receiver position we may have one individual working at push blocking and at the same time have the other individual working on releases (See Diagram 1).
Figure 1 The positive results of these types of drills are numerous: individuals canâ€™t rest or take care of their buddies during a drill because they are being evaluated on their skill work. Individuals know what to do always because they are doing their own position skills. We save a lot of time because we are working two skills in the time it takes to work one, and our performance level increases with the added level of competition during individual. With the time we have saved in this drill I can now move on to other drills. Here are some great multi-purpose drills that have been important to our skill development: Box Drill in a 5 or 10 yard Square
OFA Coaches Monthly In this drill we have a push blocker and a running release receiver. The goal for the push blocker is to take the release man and push-block him out of the 5 yard by 5 yard square. The release man’s goal is to cross the back line without being pushed out. Coaching points for this drill are to make sure the push blocker is moving his feet and does not stand stationary but attacks. He should not throw his hands until he can step on the toes of the release man. For the release man his goal is to cross the back line as close to the center as possible. The further he is moved from the center the more he is thrown off his pattern. If we use a five yard square the advantage is towards the push blocker, but if we increase the dimensions to 10 yards the advantage is for the release man. We usually make sure that everyone gets a rep of both at each depth. (See Diagram 2).
Figure 2 In this drill we have the push blocker stand face to face with the release man. He can either start with his hands on the release man or at his side based on the difficulty you want to attach to the drill. On “Go”, the release man will try to use his best press release to cross the back line. The push blocker will try to drive the release man out of the square. The tendency for the push-blocker is to over lean, when this occurs I start with a “Ready” call, followed by “Go”. Here the push-blocker chops his feet on “Ready” and on “Go” he push-blocks. Because this is a compacted drill, we always use a five yard square. This drill certainly favors the push-blocker; but, by putting the release man in a worst case scenario we teach him to overcome and adapt to a difficult situation. Back to Back Drill In the Back to Back drill we teach open field move skills and push blocking skills. In the Back to Back Drill the open field man with a ball in his hand will stand back to back with the push blocker in a ten yard square. On “Go” the open field man will turn and try and cross the back line without being pushed out. Here he can cut back or out sprint the blocker to the corner. His only rule is he can not run over the blocker. This simulates catching a hitch or curl route and then trying to score. For the push blocker his job is to flip his hips and find the open field man. Even though he is carrying a football, we still try to drive him out of the square. This teaches the blocker how to block in the open field while taking good angles and not clipping. A coaching point for the push blocker is if the push blocker stops his feet any time he will not make the block. Thus, even when he flips his hips or turns around the push blocker must
OFA Coaches Monthly always keep his feet moving. This is a difficult drill for the push blocker. If the coach wanted it to be less difficult for the push blocker he does not allow the open field man to cut back (See Diagram 3).
L Drill One of the hardest things to simulate in practice with the proper intensity is a wall off block or a crack block. Often wide receivers will catch the defensive man in a practice simulation which is not the proper technique. The best way to wall off a defensive man is deliver the body through the defensive man with controlled intensity. This also presents a problem in practice simulation, because the WR who is being blocked is not going to run at the blocker and get hit at full speed. These problems led to the creation of the â€œL Drillâ€?. In the L Drill there is a receiver who has a ball in his sideline arm, he stands two yards from the sideline, he sprints to a cone while not getting pushed out of bounds; and there is a wall off man who tries to get his head across the runner and drive him across the line. For the runner this drill teaches acceleration to beat a defender who has an angle, how to stay in bounds with contact, and how to hold onto the ball when there is contact. For the wall off man it teaches how to execute the block in a worst case scenario, that being a defender who sees you coming and shoot up right away to play the run. If the wall off man does not take a flat step he will not make the block. This is an easy drill to gauge success; if there is contact and the runner is driven across the line the wall off has done his job. If the runner absorbs the contact and stays in bounds or beats the blocker to avoid contact he has scored. This is a very physical drill and sets the tempo for practice (See Diagram 4).
OFA Coaches Monthly
Figure 4 Multi-purpose drills really do work. When the spirit of competition is added to individual skill work, the drills become fun not monotonous. Drills are intense not casual, and drills have a purpose for everyone involved. The best way for a player to produce on the game field is for his position coach to create game like circumstances on the practice field. Since this game of football is an intense one, drills with passive participants only do harm in the long run to a players performance level. Carson-Newman College Head Football Coach Ken Sparks constantly reminds our players that this game is about blocking and tackling. Thus our coaching staff is constantly being challenged to do drills in individual that reflect this philosophy. Multi-purpose drills are a vital part in teaching wide receivers how to play the game.
The Fundamentals of Combination Blocks by: Wayne Anderson This month’s drill is from Joe Gilbert, Offensive Line Coach for the University of Central Florida. Last fall the Golden Knights engineered the greatest turnaround in Division I-A football. From an 0-11 season in 2004 and a string of 17 consecutive losses, UCF rebounded to an 8-3 regular season, hosted the Conference USA Championship Game and earned a trip to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
In Gilbert’s first season at UCF in 2004, he coached the nation’s youngest offensive line that started two true freshmen and three sophomores. Prior to UCF, Gilbert helped develop one of the nation's top offensive lines at Toledo. In 2002, the Rockets ranked fifth in the nation in total offense and 11th in scoring. He also coached at Maine, Northeasetern, and Pennsylvania. He was a four-year starter at Hamilton College and became the first Hamilton player, as a senior, to earn first team All-American honors.
OFA Coaches Monthly Coach Gilbert’s drill teaches the fundamentals of combination blocks. Included with this drill are double team drills, drive blocks on a double team, blocking the second level linebacker, and taking over the down defender. Combination Blocks Combo Drill: This drill teaches offensive linemen the fundamentals of all combination blocks. This will help train your offensive linemen from the double team or zone combination at the line of scrimmage to the blocking of a second level linebacker. Equipment: • Four players – two offensive linemen and two defensive players • Two hand shields... If you are in no pads for defensive players • Two cones Area Needed: • Five yards wide by ten yards deep
Drill Techniques A. Double Team: The first phase of the drill is the double team between the two offensive linemen on the defensive linemen.
Teaching the Fit: Start the two offensive linemen in a two-point stance hip-to-hip. Their inside arms/hands with thumbs up should be on the bottom of the north of the defenders. Jersey outside arm is free and tucked next to fellow linemen.
OFA Coaches Monthly B. Double Teams (cont.): The offensive lineman should be in a good position with power angles in ankles, knees and hips. Make sure their eyes are focused on the linebacker aligned at five yards depth. Have the offensive linebacker drive the defender off the ball and stay in a tight hip-to-hip fit with eyes up. When the offensive line understands the fit position you can start to teach them from a three-point stance to a full contact double team. On the snap, emphasize leg drive.
Review: • • • •
Hip- to hip Eyes up Good fit position on contact Good leg drive
C. Drive Block on Double Team: The offensive linebacker must learn to drive the down defender off the ball and not work against each other. As they drive the defender off the ball, they must keep their eyes on the linebacker who will now scrape one way or the other to force them off the double team.
OFA Coaches Monthly Review: • Leg drive • Work together • Hip to hip D. Blocking the Second Level Linebacker: Based on which side the linebacker will scrape will determine which offensive linebacker will come off to the linebacker and who will take over the down defender. Linebacker Scraping: The offensive lineman must have a target of playside number that he will try to put his eyes on as he works up to the linebacker. As he comes at the down defender he wants to open up near hip in order to reach his target. On contact he should dip his hip, strike with both hands the playside number target at linebacker and drive his legs on contact.
Review: • Eyes up • Playside number target • Open near hip • Dip-stroke-drive
E. Taking Over Down Defender: The offensive lineman who will stay on the down defender must see the linebacker scrape away first. He will then open up near hip and begin to slide (helmet /away ear hole) to the playside number of defender. The defensive linebacker will continue to punch with inside arm but now take the outside hand and work it inside. The offensive line must continue with great leg drive during this entire drill.
OFA Coaches Monthly
Review: • • • •
See linebacker scrape Open up hip Work for playside target Great leg drive
Finish: Always have a cone that the offensive line must drive the defenders to in an effort to attain the linebacker scrapes. This will train the players more to finish their blocks to the whistle. Important Points: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Double Team Sets Eyes on second level (he determines Targets on defenders Leg drive on double and single blocks Always finish
blocks – not down defender)
Building a Hungry Defensive Line by: Charley Wiles Our overall philosophy with our front four is to create 1-and-1 match ups as quickly as possible. We are fast flow with our inside linebackers, therefore the 2-on-1 combinations quickly turn into 1-on-1 blocks. We expect our defensive lineman to win those 1-on-1 battles. We expect these guys to be playmakers, not space eaters. The only situation that we actually tie up two is the double-team block with our three technique. Other than that exception, we are coaching technique to escape blockers and make plays.
OFA Coaches Monthly Technique and Fundamentals We are very fortunate here at Virginia Tech that our practice format allows the defensive line a minimum of 30 minutes of individual time each day to concentrate on technique and fundamental work. Each practice, he work on what I call "our daily musts" - hand placement, get off and escapes. There are several ways we work inside hand placement. One such drill is something we call the gun fighter. (Diagram 1) Players get in a six-point stance with their hands, knees and toes on the ground. The emphasis is on moving the hands quickly from low to high, keeping the eyes on the target, which is the "V" of neck to the inside breast plate. Players should hit with the heel of their hand, thumbs up, elbow tucked and grab a handful of cloth. We finish the drill with our aggressive lock out, creating separation.
Diagram 1. Next in the progression, I give the kids a leverage hand or power hand (right or left). We want to leverage a gap and escape a gap. This helps teach the kids gap responsibility. They are told to push with power, pull with the trail, step 45 degrees and escape. It is the same drill until after we get full separation. Then, we push with our power hand and pull with our trail hand creating leverage in our gap. We go back and forth between the player's left and right hand. In the off-season we do drills to help the players with their hand-eye coordination. For this we get bags and number the corners of them. Then, we call out a number. For example, Right 2 (right hand to No. 2) left hand No. 4. Again, the purpose is to teach quick and accurate hand placement. Remind players not to cock their hands. Hand Violence Another drill is our "hand violence" drill. (Diagram 2) We get lines of three in a single file with a defensive lineman in front facing the three in a six-point stance. The three players come at the DL in a rapid manner exiting right, left, right. The DL shoots his hands with an emphasis on the right hand, then
OFA Coaches Monthly left hand, finishing with the right hand, reloading his hands to the ground each time. It takes a couple of reps to get the timing of the service guys right.
Diagram 2. Get Off Next we move to our "get-off" station. (Diagram 3) I consider this to be the single-most important drill we do as a defensive line. As a defensive line we must play on the offensive side of the ball. We measure get-off by our feet in the neutral zone. Our feet must be in the neutral zone once the ball disappears in the center's crouch.
Diagram 3. Emphasis in this drill is, of course, get-off, but also, pad level (no one can hit the cage) and hand placement. We teach get-off in two ways. First, we get a ball and four offensive lineman under a cage. We set up the offensive linemen and instruct them to hold hand shields tight against their bodies, being careful not let the shields fail around. They are deep in the cage. The defensive linemen crowd the ball at the edge of the cage. Each group goes at least three downs in a row. We put emphasis on getting off the field - three downs and out.
OFA Coaches Monthly However, the DL must all have great get off, great hand placement and pad level to move to the next down. If anyone jumps offsides, the offense gets a new rack of downs. We do four quarters in the cage. The offensive linemen give ground grudgingly, fighting pressure. I give the DL a right or left call. This tells them which gap to escape to at the whistle and which hand will be their power hand and trail hand. A right call equals right hand power hand, with everyone escaping the right gap. A left call makes the left hand the power hand, and everyone escapes left. I hold the whistle to put emphasis on running their feet. On the whistle, everyone escapes and hustles back for the second down. This is also part of our conditioning. Sled We also have a five-man sled that is weighted with an eight-inch tube of sand to make it real heavy. We practice "get offs" on the sled once a week. (Diagram 4) We use the same three downs and out format that we use in the regular get off drill. The same emphasis is placed on pad level and hand placement. I give a quick whistle and there is no escape portion to the sled.
Diagram 4. Escapes A third "daily must" is what we call escapes. (Diagram 5) We match up with an offensive lineman. The DL gets into a good fit with the offensive lineman - inside foot up, feet slightly staggered, good inside hand placement. On command, the DL explodes and separates while running. Again, I will designate a power hand with a right or left call. The offensive lineman gives pressure while the DL fights to gain leverage in his gap. On the whistle, he escapes his gap with a rip technique. We operate this drill on the same three downs and out. If anyone takes a poor or lazy snap, we repeat the down. Three good snaps, first, second, third down, and switch groups.
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Diagram 5. Next we escape backside blocks or cut off. We do this with a wipe technique. Again, we get into a good fundamental fit position with the offensive lineman. On command, the defensive lineman works down the line of scrimmage to simulate a cut off block. On the whistle, he wipes aggressively with his outside hand or arm (forearm area) and knocks the OL's hands from his body. This turns his shoulders and flattens his angle down the LOS to a good pursuit route so he can intersect with the ball carrier. A common mistake is that defenders tend to leak up the field. This wipe technique doesn't allow any cutback by the ball carrier. Watch for daily improvement We work our "daily musts" every Tuesday and Wednesday. I really believe this is a key to developing our defensive linemen. By using these drills, you can assure that you have worked all 1-on-1 blocks frontside and backside. You have also worked hand placement escapes and get off - all necessary fundamentals of being a great defensive lineman. Then we break up into DT / DE and work our 2-on-1 blocks. Next, we move into a half-line situation vs. the offensive line, followed by a live tackle to the ground middle drill. I believe if you stick to teaching sound techniques and fundamentals your kids will improve each practice. That is our goal at Virginia Tech.
The Linebacker Shuffle by: Mark Harriman We, as coaches, spend countless hours trying to develop the ideal offensive or defensive scheme. As important as these schemes are they cannot be practiced at the expense of developing fundamentals. As we all have witnessed, in crunch time it is the execution of fundamentals that often determines the outcome of a game.
OFA Coaches Monthly This is exemplified at the linebacker position in many ways but none more than stance and movement. A coach can drill key reaction and devise schemes to get a linebacker to the ball all day long, but if the player cannot put himself in position to get his body on the ball carrier the scheme work is fruitless. Like all positions in football, proper stance and movement out of this stance, are the foundation for great linebacker play.
The stance A linebacker's stance must allow him to move in any direction as quickly as possible. Since linebackers come in all sizes you cannot expect everyone's stance to be the same. Therefore, we use some basic checkpoints that help our players develop a functional stance. 1. Width of feet. The feet should be armpit length apart. This allows for movement without becoming over extended. Over-extension rarely occurs on the first step. By maintaining narrow feet this problem is eliminated on the second and subsequent steps as well. 2. Knee bend. Start with it and keep it until the play is over. We have our linebackers sink their butts, bend their knees and place their hands on their knees. This gives them power angles through their knees and hips while aligning the shoulders over the knees. 3. Balls of feet. As run defenders linebackers must have forward body lean. In order to get proper lean we finish our stance checkpoints by having players roll up on the balls of their feet and drop their hands to the outside of their knees with their arms relaxed. This ensures that the linebacker is ready to deliver on any blocking threats. The Progression Early in camp we will set up a stance drill similar to an offensive line "bird-dog drill." We line up the LBs on a stripe 5 yards apart. The yard line serves two purposes. First, it assures their feet are parallel. Second, it gives a starting point for the movement drills that are to follow. Once the players are aligned the coach can go through and make individual corrections. After this is done we go into a two-step drill (Diagram 1) that allows the players to tweak their stances as we progress from forward to lateral movement. The first step is called out by the coach. The second step is a recover step that will square them back up while maintaining narrow feet and bent knees. The players always return to their starting point on the line. Each step is performed twice. The pattern goes like this:
OFA Coaches Monthly
Diagram1 1. Right foot forward (recover with left) 2. Left foot forward (recover with left) 3. Right foot to right side (flat shuffle) 4. Left. foot to left side (flat shuffle) 5. Right foot back (back pedal) 6. Left foot back (back pedal) This drill allows the coach as well as the players to adjust their stance within the checkpoints. Some common errors are: feet that are too wide, too much bend at the waist (not enough knee bend) and rigid arms. The Movement Once a functional stance is developed we progress to movement out of that stance. As we begin these drills we talk in terms of constant "pad level" and "get off." Two of the most common errors players make are rising up and/or drop stepping when they begin to move. We want to maintain a low pad level with the knees bent. This allows the player to change direction with their hips under them as well as to be in position to roll the hips into a blocker or the ball carrier. A linebacker's "get off" is obviously different than a defensive lineman's but no less important. We emphasize a positive first step as opposed to a false step to initiate movement. This becomes particularly apparent when blitzing. In all of the following drills the emphasis is on "pad level" and "get off."
OFA Coaches Monthly We utilize two types of movement to get our linebackers to the ball. The first is a shuffle (Diagram 2). Whenever the ball is from tackle to tackle (cut-back threat) we shuffle. We want our LBs to shuffle toward the ball (downhill) keeping the pads square and not crossing the feet. Since we are moving forward as well as laterally the action is step off with the front foot and recover with the back foot with the shoulders over the knees and toes and parallel to the LOS.
Diagram2 If the ball is outside the tackles, we run a lateral (Diagram 3). Body position is the same except that we will cross over with the back leg for speed. The coaching point with the lateral run is not allowing the shoulders to turn in the direction you are moving. To introduce these two movements we go back to the lines and begin by moving upfield for 5 yards.
Diagram3 Next, we progress to change of direction drills (Diagram 4). The drills are done while players are still moving downhill and the coach simulating cuts of the ball carrier by hand movements. The drill is done with both shuffle and lateral run techniques.
OFA Coaches Monthly Agility Drills We attempt to work some type of agility drill into our defensive unit's practices every day. We try to make them as position specific as possible. The following drills are beneficial for overall agility as well as being specific to the linebacker position. 1. Agile bags We use six steps over bags and two cones. The cones are placed on each end of the row of bags at a 45degree angle and 5 yards from the bag. The drill ends with a 5 yard burst to the ball (cone). The Stride (Diagram 5) - One foot in each hole
Diagram5 The High Step (Diagram 6) - Two feet in each hole
Diagram6 The Shuffle (Diagram 7) - Over bags
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Diagram7 The Lateral Run (Diagram 8)
Diagram8 The Weave (Diagram 9)
Diagram9 In and Out (Diagram 10)
OFA Coaches Monthly The M Drill (Diagram 11)
Diagram11 We use the sideline and yard lines to perform this drill. The numbers are used as reference points. Once a player reaches the end, he repeats the drill in the other direction. Square Drill (Diagram 12)
Diagram12 The emphasis in this drill is to focus on a full speed burst then gathering your hips under you at each cone before you burst to the next cone. The cones are 10 yards apart. 45-inch cuts (Diagram 13)
Diagram13 Turn shoulders to cone and run
OFA Coaches Monthly In conclusion, it is imperative that linebackers spend a great deal of time on key reaction, block destruction, pass coverage and tackling.A functional stance alone with the ability to move out of the stance with certainty enhance all the techniques and fundamentals that are needed for great linebacker play.
West Virginia's Defensive Secondary Footwork Drills by: Wayne Anderson This month’s drill was submitted by Coach Tony Gibson, the Defensive Backs Coach at West Virginia University. Coach Gibson is entering his sixth year as a member of Coach Rich Rodriquez’s staff. Coach Gibson has also made stops along his coaching career at West Virginia Tech University, Cumberland University, Glenville State College and Gilmer County High School. While at West Virginia University, Coach Gibson has been part of three Big East Conference Championships (2003, 2004, and 2005) as well as a 2006 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Coach Gibson will share with us some footwork and net drills that have made the defensive backs an intricate part of the success of the Mountaineers 3-5-3 defense. Their defense in 2005 was 20th in the nation in total defense. In the Big East Conference the Mountaineers were ranked fifth in scoring defense, first in rushing defense and second in total defense. There are four goals in practicing the footwork drills: • • • •
Developing quick feet and hips. Improving change of direction. Improve breaking on routes. Eye control.
Drill 1: The Box Drill 9 (See Diagram 1)
• DB will chop feet in the middle of the 4 cones • Coach has a ball and points to any of the 4 cones • DB will use any of the following movements to get to each cone (open up and run, back pedal, sprint, shuffle) • The drill ends with the coach tossing the ball into the air
OFA Coaches Monthly •
The DB must high point the football
Drill 2: Box and Break (See Diagram 2)
• The coach throws the ball on each break We also practice a number of net drills to work on the following: • Low pad level • Footwork • Body control • Breaking on routes • Teaching man and zone techniques • Open hips and running • Ball skills Drill 3: Pedal and Vert (See Diagram 3)
• Back pedal, open up throwing inside elbow to run with the vertical route (zone turn) • Back pedal, open up throwing outside elbow to run with the vertical route (man turn) Drill 4: Pedal and 90 (See Diagram 4)
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• Back pedal, break at 90 degrees on out cut • Ball is thrown on break
keeping feet hot
Drill 5: Pedal and 45 (See Diagram 5)
• Back pedal, break at 45 degrees on the hitch, slant, curl, and out • Throw ball on break Drill 6: W Drill (See Diagram 6)
• Back pedal at 45 to cone, footfire down hill at 45 to next cone and repeat (creating a W pattern) Drill 7: Star Drill (See Diagram 7)
OFA Coaches Monthly
â€˘ Back pedal at 45 to cone, footfire down hill at 45 to next cone, change direction back pedalling at 45 back to previous cone and footfire downhill out of net.
Wall Punt Returns by: Paul McCord The punt return means big play time for us. Players at Western Maryland pay special attention to this part of the game. We have had success blocking punts and we have returned punts for touchdowns multiple times over the past four seasons. More importantly, we make things happen on every punt return and have an opportunity to score. Statistically, having a return average of 10 yards or more is important, but the goal should be to accumulate yardage consistently on each return. Put Pressure on As Many Punts as Possible We have won every game where we have blocked a punt and we score 100 percent of the time following a block. As Virginia Tech has shown, an effective punt block unit can be a lethal weapon and can deflate a team's morale We apply pressure to each punt to prevent coverage from releasing. The longer we force opponents to stay in the protection mode, the more cushion our return man gains. For each tenth of a second we force the protection to block, we gain field position. Pressure forces the punter to rush the punt which gives his outside men less time to respond to the trajectory of the ball. Poor hang-time is often a result of heavy pressure as well. Most punters are taught to sacrifice everything for get-off speed against a block look. Overall, we can gain one second or more on our returns which make open field decisions easier and result in a higher return average. The increased potential for a blocked punt, which can decide a game, makes a decision to consistently apply pressure a sure thing. Field Every Ball From the Air
OFA Coaches Monthly Lots of teams have beefy return averages on a few punt returns, yet many fail to return receivable punts, or call for fair catches on too many balls. There are also a lot of average punters who increase their statistics by three to four yards per punt with big rolls. To better prepare your unit, charting your opponents' punts becomes a must. This will give your return man the information he needs to align properly with the punter. You can save an average of two first downs per punt (20-40 per season) just by effectively receiving the ball in the air. Use the fair catch if necessary, developing the terminology to aid your specialist in the decision. The hidden yards on special teams are easy to discover when you begin to take advantage of them. Most people who don't see the advantages tend to be on the short end of the stick. Allowing a ball to hit the ground will put your team in disarray. Very seldom will a ball roll right to a return man. Usually, it will careen down the field for at least an extra 10 yards. The roll will also cost you a return that could average 10 yards because players are scrambling to react to the bounces. Each time a ball is allowed to roll, you are giving your opponents two first downs! Allow two punts to roll by and you will put your offense at a distinct disadvantage. Develop a Solid Return Scheme and Provide Practice Time At WMC we base all of our punt return schemes around a wall return. Walls or variations of walls exist on most of our plays and enable us to remain consistent in our practices which saves time. Practice time for special teams is always limited, so managing your time with a scheme that can be repeated often is essential. We work our punt return game a minimum of twice per week. We use some drills to help our players develop a good field sense for how and where the wall develops. Teaching the Wall Return At Western Maryland, our head coach allows us to use our starters on special teams - that helps put it all together. We try to mix young up and comers with veteran players. Having a good punt return requires using as many athletes as your team can provide. First, find the right people for the return. Everyone must have good speed. We look for fast linebackers or defensive ends in the interior. Having good size prevents teams from wedge faking and is necessary for surviving potential double teams up front. It is important that players rush hard from the middle, because often the center and personal protector can get caught up in the wash inside. Make sure to work with players on their block angles should they get set free in a blown protection. This is easily accomplished before or after practice and can be made fun. The thrill of blocking a punt and potentially ending up in the end zone is enough to make linebackers volunteer for the punt return team. For outside personnel, look to leaner, quicker defensive backs or offensive skill players. It is important to find athletes who have innate ball hawking skills. Some players, no matter how fast or quick they are, can never seem to block punts. Some players who are not the fastest can block punts well because they know how to use their leverage skills.
OFA Coaches Monthly Ideally, try to find players that combine great speed with instinct. Sometimes your best blocker is one of your return men as well, so it is a good idea to use those players at both spots. Players who are not going for the block are what we call the "headhunters." These are guys who line up players down field and look to bring the wall to the ball. This is instinctual to some extent, but can be taught by having players practice the brick in the wall drill. These players usually have a real mean streak and are aggressive, but they are good with angles and open field blocking. These outside players can spring a return for great yardage or potentially block the punt. The drill (Diagram 1) is a simple landmark drill we call a "dot" drill. Using sveral markers laid out like runway lights at the angle of the wall, we try to provide our players with visual keys to setting and maintaining the wall. Our wall people are called "bricks" and each one has a key location within the wall.
Diagram1 We start the drill with either a six-, seven- or eight-man front vs. the spread double wing punt formation. The great thing about a wall scheme is you can use multiple fronts and still account for blocking everyone. Once you determine how many you want up front, have all of your rushers assume an aggressive punt block posture, or sprinter's stance. We want the protection to think that everyone is coming at them after the punt. This inspires a protection thought process in all punt protectors. Have the look unit snap the ball to the punter and punt return players step through their gaps. Pressure the punter or jugs machine and allow the ball to be accurately thrown, or punted down field to a designated return area. (Diagram 2)
Diagram2 The pressure side, on the right, always waits for the ball to be dropped from the punter's hand before leaving to execute their responsibilities and the last man through spies for screen passes, or trickery. This person can be alternated to insure that teams won't know who your designated spy is. The return side, on the left, must come hard up field initially, making aggressive contact with the man, or men, protecting in front of them. Like dominos, each man drops consecutively out of the rush and heads to
OFA Coaches Monthly their landmark at a full sprint. Speed must be emphasized as most clips and blocks in the back occur due to poor down field positioning. The final part of the drill involves coverage personnel, preferably holding shields, moving downfield, reading the return. Upon reaching their landmarks, return players should pivot their shoulders at 45 degree angles and shuffle to the closest danger relative to their location. The shoulders are key in preventing illegal contacts. Please note that in our drill, the further you get away from the origin of the wall, the wider the protection becomes. We want to escort our return men to the speed alley and kick the punter or safety out of bounds. Often, these players will over pursue and are susceptible to cut back lanes (Diagram 3).
Diagram3 The wall's spacing is very important and the drill should be run with close attention to detail. Body mechanics are essential to limiting penalties. It is nearly impossible to prevent all penalties on kicks, but using speed, proper shoulder angles and arranging the wall at an angle to the sideline, forces coverage people to square their shoulders to the wall. Note the progression of spread punt coverage and its relationship to the wall (Diagrams 4 and 5).
A disciplined wall is hard to beat. You can run modifications of the wall that are easily installed week to week and do not demand a huge amount of time. Once again, it is key to use speed throughout the return. Find players who have great field speed. They are not necessarily the same players with a blazing 40-yard dash time, but they somehow get the job done. Remember, it is not your average return that matters, but how many yards you pick up each game. If you only field two of four punts for a 15-yard average, you were not as successful as the team that fielded all four and averaged 10 yards per return. They got one more first down per carry and better field position for the offense.
OFA Coaches Monthly By working on a solid punt return scheme, your offense will be able to better control the field. Use your momentum to overcome opponents that may be more talented defensively and provide your offense with a jump start on every drive!
The Art of Punting: What is Needed to Coach Punting Properly by: Mike McCabe You must set a punting and kicking training program that has an emphasis on technique development. Regardless of the level of performance your punter has accomplished, a period of technique evaluation, film evaluation and drill development is needed. Too many punters that just kick for their training will be their downfall. The player can develop bad habits if a proper training program is not in place. The training program I will show and explain to you is important towards maximizing your punterâ€™s ability. Proper technique and training is the foundation for being a consistent and effective performer. Working on their fundamentals to perfect the proper technique is what needs to be developed to successfully execute the skill of punting. The first set of photos you will see is what most punters have learned, the result of this is that you will only be an average punter â€“ not a real weapon. I will explain to you what needs to be adjusted in their technique for maximum performance. (See Photos 1-3)
The Stance: Feet, head and body pointing toward the direction you want to punt the ball down field. Your weight must be evenly distributed and on the balls of your feet. Hips and shoulders square but your shoulders should be over your toes as though you are almost leaning forward. Your knees should be slightly bent. (See Photo 1)
OFA Coaches Monthly Feet: Your kicking foot in front of the plant foot slightly ahead – feet inside shoulder width. If you are to use a shuffle start your plant foot will be slightly ahead of your kicking foot. The shuffle builds more momentem into the punt – right foot kicks back and down, the plant foot jab steps 6 inches forward. (See Photo 4) Leg alignment: The punter must line his right or left kicking leg over the center so the ball is received over the kicking leg. Receiving the ball: Every punter I have coached starts with their arms and hands straight down. The problem with this is that you have to move your arms and hands to catch the ball to adjust for proper alignment to place it on your drop table (Drop table goes from your soloplex-mid chest (See Photos 1 & 7). This takes time for a punter to accomplish this witch will affect his get-off time, alignment, and drop placement. This will also affect his reaction time if he receives a bad snap. Example: fumbling the ball. Punters make this motion when the ball is 3-4 yards from them (See Photo 2) and when they receive the ball they bring the ball right back down on their first step (See Photo 3). This happens because of muscle memory and lack of drill training. You’ve already told your mind it is ok to have your arms to your side. (See Photos 4 & 5) Just as the long snapper is to fire that ball back to you, your arms must be in front of you, palms facing up and fingers open showing a target for the snapper with a slight bend at the elbows. Do not bring the ball into your body when you receive it. (See Photo 4)
If you have a high snap your hands are there with a quicker reaction time then if they are by your side. If the snap is low you can scoop the ball and place it on the drop table for proper alignment. Once you have received the snap immediately turn the ball to its proper position laces up. A lot of coaches want the ball 5 degrees inside. Why would you do that when the ball naturally will turn 5 degrees on it’s own from the force of body movement and drop. If you turn the ball 5 degrees then your ball will turn 10 degrees to the inside of your body and you will only turn over 55% of your punts or, the punts will fish tail, go end over end, or shank. Keep the ball straight down field and do not look at laces for alignment with your right eye for that will have the ball on the inside of your leg. Look at the inside logo of ball with your right eye (right legged punters) left legged use left eye. This will allow you to line
OFA Coaches Monthly the ball over the center of your leg. Tuck the elbow inside but not next to your body; that is, in front of you over the center of your kicking leg. (See Photo 5) Proper Hand Placement of the ball: The ball must not be dropped but float to the foot for proper hitting position. Every coach teaches different ways to hold a football. A lot of coaches teach a player to hold or grip the ball with the hand on top of the ball or held by the nose. The problem is that the ball when released will have a quicker descent for the drop. It also can leave your release arm still tucked into the body which will leave the ball too close to the body and will cause the punter to lean back. (See Photo 6) At left (Photo 7.) is Freddie Capshaw – former Miami Hurricanes punter and Ray Guy Award Finalist. We teach to hold the ball underhand – or to the side a little (as in picture). The hand is on the side of the ball with the first and second finger under the stitch line – outside of ball – side of ball and the third and fourth finger under the ball. The thumb would be on the inside of the ball and inside of body. The right eye is looking at the inside logo of ball. The back point of the ball would fit in the palm pocket and the ball is straight not turned laces up. (See Photo 7) One of the finest punters in Miami history, Freddie is one of the best punters I have seen and in 2003 was with San Francisco 49er’s in pre-season.
The Under Hand Placement: This is a similar hold as the side hold except that the thumb finger is on the right side next to the logo outside of body (example - Wilson, Nike, etc.). The hand is at the back of the ball underneath and fingers spread the ring finger on the seam. The right eye is looking at the inside logo of ball. The back point of the ball would fit in the palm pocket and the ball is straight – not turned laces up. This will allow the ball to float out then just drop quickly past the impact point. The point of this is to get the ball to float out to your foot with minimal descent – almost like a trap door – punting it out of your hands. Your drop would only descent a foot to a foot and a half not three feet. (See Photo 8) The Approach and drop: Your shoulders would be ahead of the hips square to point of target. The first step is a short natural walking step; do not overstride on steps or your body will pass your impact point which will cause the punter to lean back – (like he is sitting in a chair) and the ball would be by his knee. (See Photo 6)
OFA Coaches Monthly The second step is parallel remaining square but a walking stride. This will keep your body square for ball contact and leg lock and will eliminate crossovers and from over- striding on the second step. (See Photo 9) You have 3-4 yards for impact point. Any more will result in a blocked punt. You must have a short second step, not overstride to pop your hips through the ball. We call it short step and pop. First step is walking stride and second is walking stride but moving quickly into the punt towards target direction. The left hand moves off the ball when you’re on to your second step (See Photo 8) with right elbow still slightly bent. In Photo 9 the left arm does not go past your shoulders so you do not cause yourself to lean back. Your body weight is going forward at a 45 degree angle. The elbow now pops the ball forward from the bent position by lifting the elbow to a locked position – upward to cause it to float out to impact point and not drop. The ball releases the hand when the second step heal is to touch the ground – you can see the sole of the cleat. As the ball leaves the hand it will float out straight and level with a slow descent. Do not pull the drop arm downward. You’re then telling the ball to drop down at a quicker descent. Have the arm pop – elbow forward as you are giving the ball to someone and the arm moves to the right, not down. You will see from (Photo 9) the punter is not overstriding – if he was, both feet would be off the ground and the ball would be too close to his body. The ball is held by it’s nose and the elbow doesn’t extend the ball to float forward as seen in the picture and the ball is too close to this punter’s body. The nose of the ball heads for a nose dive which will cause this punter to lean back to make contact. This will cause you to lose 35% power. When you are air born as seen in this photo all your weight comes crashing down on the plant spot not generating the power to thrust a t a 45 degree loft. You then are using your leg because your power is now behind you. As the ball floats forward (See Photos 10, 11, 12) the punter fires thru the ball with a popping thrust – this is were the hip and knee are pulled through the ball. The foot meets the ball near knee height in front or just above it. As the leg hips and knee pop through the ball this is driving your body to thrust at a 45 degree angle downfield with your head down and shoulders forward. From the knee down is the whip action of the leg for leg lock and ball contact which would be (for the nose of the ball at 11 o’clock and the back of the ball at 5 o’clock) on the bone of the foot, the ball will be floating out and turning on its own which will be 5 degrees. The result is the ball turning over and high booming spirals.
OFA Coaches Monthly Photo 13 will show from the pop action of the hips and knee the thrust of the body launching the ball to its desired target. The follow through: the pop backswing of the leg is parallel to the ground and the thigh and hip muscles drive the leg through the ball and the “whip” is from the knee to the ankle firing through the ball. (Photos 10, 11 & 12). The knee and leg swing must be straight through the ball. The leg will follow straight through and up to the right eye and right ear to the side of head. You will not have a cross-over if all aspects of this article are followed. The hips and knee pulling your body through the ball will lead to the popping noise of the ball making impact to foot. Your body will drive through the ball from the “whip”action, hips and knee to leave the ground with the plant foot and the ball riding your foot for a longer period for maximum hang time. (See Photos 13, 14 & 15) Your body will continue downfield allowing that momentum to carry your body to the point of target.
Corey Newton from Tusculum (Div. II punter) is featured in most of these photos. We have selected him because he should become an All-American next year and has a professional leg for the NFL
Kicking It In by: Derek Franz There is a saying among football coaches that “kicking a football is like swinging a golf club.” This statement is true because both incorporate the upper and lower body to work simultaneously. However, the two skills are very different. As a former Division I-A place kicker, I have included in my article a set of techniques and drills for soccer style kickers to help any coach work with their athletes. Standard Steps and Approach The place kicker starts every PAT/FG by taking three steps back while facing the line of scrimmage. These steps must be of equal length and about a yard deep. These three steps should be the same length as a walking step; shorter kickers have shorter steps and so forth. Following the third step back, the kicker must look up and make sure he is aligned through the tee or holder’s hand with the spot he is aiming at, which is the middle of the crossbar or slightly left or right.
OFA Coaches Monthly Next, the kicker looks down at his feet and takes two steps to the side. If the steps back are done properly, the kicker can look down at his feet and they will direct him in the proper angle for the side steps. The two side steps vary in angle depending on whether it is a kick from the middle of the field, left or right hash. The two side steps are approximately one half to three quarters of a yard wide. After the two side steps, the kicker drops the kicking foot back in a comfortable staggered stance. The shoulders and body should be squared to the goalposts. A slight angle of the feet and shoulders at the tee or ball is OK; however, if they angle directly at the ball it will drastically affect the direction of the placement. The approach begins when the kicker sees or feels the snap moving towards the holder. The first step is called a power step. The power step is with the front or non- kicking foot. A power step is no more than picking his foot up and placing it down six inches in front of his original spot. The power step gets his momentum going forward and leads to the second step. The second step is with his kicking foot, and it is just over a yard deep. The final step is the cross over step, which directs where he lands his plant foot. His plant foot and toe should point towards where he is kicking the ball. The plant foot should land with the inseam of the cleats parallel or slightly in front of the ball when kicking off the ground. Off a one-inch tee, the foot should have its toe even with the middle or back of the tee. When using a two-inch tee, the foot should be inches behind the tee. The width from the ball or tee on all PAT/FGâ€™s is no wider than six inches from the tee or holders spot. The plant foot is slightly wider when kicking off a kicking tee than the ground. As the place kicker is striking the football, his opposite arm needs to pull through his body. The holder holds the ball straight up, or tilts the ball slightly towards himself. Never have the holder tilt the ball away from himself. This will cause the ball to helicopter spin. Middle of Field (PAT/FG) Technique The place kicker takes three steps back while facing the line of scrimmage. Following the third step back, the kicker must look up and make sure they are aligned through the tee and the spot they are aiming at (middle of the crossbar or slightly left/right). I recommend on PATâ€™s for the kicker to use the middle of the crossbar as a landmark. As the placement moves farther back, I recommend for right-footed kickers to aim closer toward the right upright and for left-footed kickers aim more toward the left upright. The adjustment accounts for the natural hook on the football as they attempt to hit the ball farther. Following the three steps back and checking his alignment, the kicker looks down at his feet and takes two parallel steps to the side. The two steps should be approximately one half to three quarters wide and at a 90-degree angle. After the two side steps, the kicker drops his kicking foot back in a comfortable, staggered stance. His shoulders and body should be squared up to the goalposts. A slight angle of the feet and shoulders at the tee or ball is OK, however, if they angle at the ball directly it will drastically affect the direction of the ball (See Diagrams 1 and 2).
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Diagram 1. Middle/Right-footed Kicker
Diagram 2. Middle/Right-footed kicker Left Hash The three steps back remain the same distance, but the kicker’s steps are now angled back. This allows the aiming point to go through the kicking tee and the spot aimed for on the crossbar. A left-footed kicker’s two side steps are still one half to three quarters wide, but are angled at a slightly more than 90 degrees. A right-footed kicker’s two side steps are angled slightly less than 90 degrees. To help his accuracy, on the side steps have him look down at his feet as he takes his side steps. This should help with the correct angle. Finally, the shoulders and body are still directed at the spot on the goalpost. The approach and steps are the same as the middle of the field placements (See Diagrams 3 and 4).
Diagram 3. Left Hash/Left-footed kicker
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Diagram 4. Left Hash/Right-footed kicker Right Hash The three steps back remain the same distance, but the kicker’s steps are now angled back. This allows the aiming point to go through the kicking tee and the spot aimed for on the crossbar. A left-footed kicker’s two side steps are still one half to three quarters wide but, are angled slightly less than 90 degrees. A right-footed kicker’s two side steps are slightly angled more than 90 degrees. To help his accuracy, on the side steps have him look down at his feet. Finally, his shoulders and body are still directed at the target on the goalpost. The approach and steps are the same as the middle of the field (See Diagrams 5 and 6).
Diagram 5. Right Hash/Right-footed kicker
Diagram 6. Right Hash/Left-footed kicker Coaching Points
OFA Coaches Monthly A proper strike by a soccer style kicker is done with the toe and knee out. The ball is struck on the inseam of the shoe laces and the foot bone. The toes are squished to the bottom of the shoe and never come off the sole. If the toes come up in the shoe, the kicker has toed the ball. When evaluating a place kicker’s approach and placement, I recommend filming your place kicker prior to or during practice. The camera angles should be from behind and across the holder to allow them to see the kicker’s approach and placement up-close. On the film, see if both feet are off the ground at any time. If both feet are in the air at the same time, they are too deep on their steps and too far away from the ball. The air will cause them to lose power and height on the ball. If a right-footed kicker continually misses to the right, adjust their landmark on the crossbar to the left, and look to see if the kicker is leading with their knee at the ball and not his foot. A kick that leads with a knee is when the knee is the first part of the leg to attack the ball instead of the foot. If a right-footed kicker is missing to the left, the steps are also too deep, the foot went around the ball instead of up and through and the kicker was probably leaning too far back and not over the ball on contact. During practice, emphasize that he should not look up until his kicking foot has re-touched the ground. A good kicker who follows through properly with his head down on PAT’s should first see the ball after it has cleared the uprights. Placekicking Drills: Upright Accuracy Align the kicker directly in front of one of the uprights. The purpose of this drill is to strike the ball into the upright or as close as possible. Five yards or closer to the upright in either direction is a well-struck ball. Chart the kicks to see how many accurate strikes were done and how many went wide of his landmark (See Diagram 7).
Diagram 7. Upright Accuracy Drill
• This drill can also be done on the end line of the end zone, striking both uprights from across the field. Width of Field Accuracy
OFA Coaches Monthly Align the kicker on a clearly marked yard line across the width of the field. Have him strike the ball with the goal of having the ball land inside of five yards or closer from the original line. Chart the kicks to see how many accurate strikes were done and how many went wide of his landmark (See Diagram 8).
Diagram 8. Width of Field Drill Height Drill I learned this drill from a Minnesota Vikingâ€™s scout that I worked out for many years ago. Place the ball in the end zone five yards from the crossbar. Have the kicker take his placekicking steps and strike the ball with the goal of clearing the crossbar. If the ball clears the cross bar cleanly, his PAT/FG attempt should almost never be blocked if the placement is done in a timely fashion. In the college ranks, we have all placements from snap to kick at or under 1.3 seconds. If the ball strikes the upright and goes over, or hits the crossbar and projects back, the ball was struck relatively well. If the ball goes under the bar, this line drive kick has a strong possibility of being blocked. If the place kicker is missing the sweet spot of the ball, mark the kicking ball with a colored dot. The sweet spot of the ball is just under the middle of the ball. Chart the kicks to see how many accurate strikes were done and how many sailed low of his landmark (See Diagram 9).
Diagram 9. Height Drill Game of Pig or Horse If a kicker is able to work with another kicker, this game is great for practice, competition and a little
OFA Coaches Monthly pressure. Play the game just like in basketball; one person strikes the ball from any distance, on a hash or inside of the hashes. The first person to spell out the word has lost. At Highland Community College, our place kickers and punters are continuously working on some aspect of their game throughout practice. We never allow them to just stand around and watch. During their least active times at practice they are working on their steps or stretching. I recommend on the practice field or at home, that they have a designated spot where they have their steps perfectly marked with tape or spray painted in the grass. I hope these drills will help you and your place kickers become more successful.
Bobby April's 5 Must Follow Rules for Coaching Kickoff Returns by: Michael Parker
Have you ever dreamt of always starting an offensive drive near midfield? Or is it more of the opposite … you wake up in a cold sweat after another nightmare where your kick returner misjudges the ball and you are stuck near your goal line in the biggest game of the year. Buffalo Bills Special Teams Coach Bobby April has five rules that will all but guarantee that you will be better than ever in your kick return game. And hopefully you will sleep better at night. RULE# 1 You don’t have to spend much time on kick returns to relay the importance to your players. While most coaches profess the importance of special teams, deep down they must admit the focus really is on offense and defense; you know, ‘both sides of the ball.’ “Special teams needs to be addressed with the same mentality and fervor that offense and defense are emphasized. That doesn’t necessarily mean the same amount of time, but the same emphasis,” says April. April achieves this with his kick return team in four ways: 1. Players feel as unique and critical to the success of the team as if they were on offense or defense. April has a great respect for the military. He has nicknamed each unit on special teams with a military Special Forces name. April chose the term ‘Seals’ to represent his kick return squad. “Find the mission. Complete the mission,” says April, “just like completing a successful return.” 2. Players feel accountable and responsible, just as players on offense and defense are accountable. Each player has their own position and responsibility. “You can’t just throw someone out there and say ‘do this,’” April says. “You will be sending a message that they are just filling space. You wouldn’t do that with another position on offense and defense.” Along with that, April and the other Bills coaches
OFA Coaches Monthly evaluate the depth chart to make sure that all players still give them their best effort, and consequently, the team’s best chance for success. 3. Players must be recognized in front of their teammates for good performances. The Bills have a board in their locker room where they put a picture of the special teams player of the past week. And all players’ stats on special teams are listed on that board. The players that did well can be proud of their efforts. The ones that didn’t do as well will be motivated to do better. Keep track of less obvious things, like blocks – and missed blocks – as well as returns and yardage. 4. You must reinforce in words – and actions – how important the special teams are and, specifically, the kickoff return team, to the success of the entire team. Several Bills’ special teams players have commented in interviews that April has a way of making them feel important that is truly unique in today’s NFL. He accomplishes this largely by just pulling players aside and telling them that they are important. This is especially crucial for front line players that don’t see themselves on the game film. RULE# 2 “Starters don’t always make the best kickoff return players,” says April. Traditional logic dictates that your starters and best athletes are going to be your best special teams players. Not necessarily. April looks for these traits above all others for his kickoff return team: TOUGHNESS - “They’ve got to be tough. They might not be exceptional athletes, but there is no replacement for toughness,” says April. Look for players who have the same mentality as a good safety would against the run – who will come up and make the play moving upfield, instead of laterally. This will help avoid the dreaded clipping penalties that all too often wipe out great returns. COURAGE - Players need to block going full speed, and shouldn’t slow down to make contact. After all, the other team’s players aren’t slowing down. These players must not be afraid to face the opponent when making their blocks. They can’t drop their head and stop their feet. DURABILITY - April looks for players that have a history of staying healthy, and are always in motion and full of energy. Players that pull up short with a limp every time they are out there do as much good as if they were next to you on the sideline. ATHLETICISM - This isn’t about quickness or size, necessarily. “They must be good enough athletes to run on the edges of their feet, like a good defensive lineman,” says April. Size and quickness doesn’t hurt, though. AMBITION - Like the great Bills special teamer Steve Tasker, they have an overachiever mentality. Those who work hard whether they play a lot or not will likely work hard on the return team. While it is important to reward players who give their all – but just aren’t good enough to play on offense or defense – don’t compromise a solid return for the sake of allowing a player the chance to earn a letter.
OFA Coaches Monthly RULE# 3 There is more than meets the eye in choosing your kickoff return specialists. You put your best playmaker back to return kicks. Right? Not exactly. “Our punt returners should, most of all, have excellent hands, good judgment, and the ability to secure the ball,” says April. “Kick returners are different. They must catch EVERY kick and have the courage to sprint to the designated point of return.” April says that kick returners should have the courage to run north and south, but raw speed is not as crucial. They do need to be quick enough to avoid the folding players coming back to make the tackle. And along with being able to make quick diagonal cuts, “kick returners should have a running back awareness of running behind wedge blockers like an inline scrimmage play.” RULE# 4 Your coaching staff knows more than they realize about coaching kick returns. While special teams responsibilities may often be assigned to assistant coaches arbitrarily, what most don’t realize is just how similar some aspects of special teams are with fundamental parts of offense or defense. For example, when with St. Louis, April used legendary offensive line coach Jim Hanifan to coach the wedge on kick return, and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery – the former Eagle running back – to help the kick returners follow the wedge like any regular run play on offense. That is how April tries to split up as many parts of each respective group as he can. Look at each part of the unit instead of viewing the group as a whole. Though April believes in having a coordinator oversee everything, he feels the best way to prepare your kick return team is to have as many eyes on the players as possible. April breaks up the unit into specific parts, and assigns coaches the responsibility of instructing and monitoring each group. This helps ensure that each player understands his role. Here is the breakdown for April’s ‘Seals’(Kick Return) unit. Kickoff Return - “Find the mission; complete the mission.” Front Line: They are responsible to run to a landmark then turn and attack. These players should be able to see the ball off the foot of the kicker and athletic enough to get to their spot on the field. Then they need to be tough enough to turn and make the block on players working down the field at full speed. Wedge: They need to be a little more athletic than front line players because the wedge forms in front of where the return man makes the catch. They must also be patient enough to wait for the returner to catch the ball and reach the spot behind them. They need to be strong and quick enough to block the players who make it past the front line players. Returners: They must have consistent hands. It is crucial that they field every kick and make it to the spot on the field designated for the return. They must then follow their blockers like any regular running play on offense. They must look to run north and south rather than east and west.
OFA Coaches Monthly Scout Team Right/Left Side: They need to be fearless and be able to give you a good look. RULE# 5 The really tough decisions for your kickoff return team must be addressed before the game begins. In high school, there are time constraints unlike other levels of football. “If I had lunch duty or had to teach a class, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that I do.” Still, it is imperative to have a plan going into a game. The middle of a crucial series isn’t the best time to make solid personnel and strategy decisions in the kicking game. Head coaches must ask themselves the following questions before the game… A. When fatigue sets in, will a starter be told to give up a shift of special teams or at his regular position? If so, which players and which units? B. What happens when injuries require regular special teams players to become regular players on offense and/or defense? C. Who are your backups? Do they know what they are doing? D. Any specific strategies? Do they squib kick, etc? E. How strongly do your assistant coaches feel regarding certain personnel and playing time on special teams? Now, as for strategy, April recommends having one return in high school and sticking with it. Being effective with one return allows the wrinkles that coaches love to add. “I would call your ‘safe return’ every time. You have no idea where that ball is going,” April says. The kicker probably doesn’t know where that ball is going either. As an NFL coach, Bobby April may not be in Buffalo forever, but you can bet that wherever he is, his team will again top the league in special teams play. And it isn’t because he has access to better players than the rest of the league, or even that he is using different strategy. His success can be attributed to five rules that make his return system work at the highest level, regardless of how good his team is. Or even the unforgiving Buffalo weather.
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