Building Winning Special Teams with Core Principles – Part V


Building Winning Special Teams with Core Principles – Part V

By Mike Cieri, Defensive Line and Special Teams Coordinator

Montclair State University

The final special team the will be addressed is our punt team. There are two core principles.that we will discuss. Core principle one is centered on a man blocking scheme. We are different from a man scheme shield punt but whatever your punt scheme is, blocking technique should be your first priority. The second principle should be coverage which begins with releasing from the defender at the LOS, maintaining the proper coverage lanes and ending with herding in the returner.

Station 1 consists of the guards and tackles plus the center working on their man blocking steps. Our center does not block in our scheme but he is practicing snaps to a punter who is working on catching the ball. Station 1A is developing the proper blocking calls and techniques for the single personal protector. Station 2 is working on the sink technique by our wings. At this station there is a center and punter. In order to block the oncoming rushers, the wing needs to know the block point, thus a live punter is included. The punt will get the ball off and returners will be working on catching the ball using the 5 Golden Rules for returners (read the ball spin, locate the ball, run to the ball, set the feet at the catch point and secure the football after the catch).

“WINNING THE DOWN EARLY” on the punt involves the coverage. Oonce the basic blocking techniques have been taught, we use a multi-purpose drill to work on all of the coverage facets. There are two scout units. The one on the line of scrimmage will be rushing or holding up the punt unit while the group downfield will act as trail and fit near the end point of the play. This drill helps develop the proper blocking techniques and rules, various releases and re-stacking principles, working on avoiding or disengaging from downfield blocks and maintaining your lane concept.

About the Author

Mike Cieri is a coaching veteran of 38 college seasons and 45 seasons overall, including high school head coaching. Cieri is the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach for the 10th Winningest Division III football program, Montclair State University. Since 2003 Cieri’s Special Teams have made 3 kickoff returns & 8 punt returns for touchdowns scoring 60 points and produced 51 PAT/FG Blocks (1 score) and 36 Punt Blocks (6 for TD’s) scoring a total of 44 points from those efforts. The Red Hawks have ranked number one in kickoff returns and/or punt returns for 10 out of the last 15 years under Coach Cieri’s tenure. In 2010, Cieri’s punt return unit ranked in the top 3 nationally among Division III teams with the nation’s second-best punt returner. The Red Hawk punting and kicking coverage units as well as the return units have been of the best statistically in the New Jersey Athletic Conference over his 15 year tutelage. These units have never ranked below 3rd in a 10 team league. Cieri’s resume includes 7 years of coaching on the high school level, with 3 years as a successful high school head coach, posting an 18-9 record. Cieri, who holds a Master’s in science education, attributes his passion for improving the skills and techniques with a sharp eye on special teams organization to his 45 years of experience as an AP Biology teach and Science Chairperson grades 7 -12.