By Jared Hottle, Special Teams and Wide Receivers Coach
Dakota State University
Fakes and Offensive Punt
In addition to our punt formations I like to carry one unique formation with shifts and motions to have in our back pocket if we need a big play or need to neutralize a punt block scheme. We keep the protection very simple and try to hide eligible receivers by moving someone slightly off the ball and putting a shield member on the ball.
I also always carry an offensive punt into a game. You never know when a long snapper or punter will get hurt or when a punt returner will have his way with you or when your protection will break down for whatever reason. For these reasons, I find it imperative to have a way to punt the ball with your offense on the field. Teams, more than likely, cannot risk putting a returner back and if you teach your quarterback to get top spin on the ball, you should be able to down it nicely.
Self-Scout and Tendency Breaking
With as simple as your punt scheme likely is, it is important to break a tendency now and again against teams. It is important to do a comprehensive self-scout to check your tendencies. The self-scout should include: kick call, kick direction, hash, and kick formation (if you have multiple).
The ways in which we break tendencies are as follows: kick and protect both to the field and the boundary, kick and rugby kick away from gunners, and by putting gunners into the boundary as well as to the field.
Return Team’s Body Language
One thing we spend a great deal of time on is teaching our punt team to read the body language of a return team. We try to get an advantage on what each individual return team member is doing based off his body language but often they can be classified in 3 ways:
3-Pt Track Stance = We assume all these guys are coming for the block and we must use great technique to get them blocked.
2-Pt Receiver Stance = Could come, could not come. We assume they are coming but we should be able to get them cut-off.
2-Pt Square Stance = Are not coming, or at least not coming with enough speed to block a kick. We will look to work a wide receiver type release on these players as they are most likely “hold-up” players.
As we look at the picture below we will count the furthest inside and furthest outside guys as a 2-pt square stance and will work releases on them. The 3 interior guys are 2-pt receiver stances and we will assume they are coming for the block.
In the picture below we see everyone in a 3-pt stance. When we get that, we will assume everyone is coming. The chances of everyone coming for the block is slim but even if they do not come they are not in a great position coming from a 3-pt stance to come to balance and block in space down the field.
We believe in the shield punt and have made it work for us. Whatever you do, believe in it and make it work for you. No matter your scheme, I think if you can think one step ahead by doing due-diligence in film study and self-scouting and can get your guys thinking one-step ahead by seeing body-language and anticipating what they are going to do before the snap, you can help them have great success on your punt team.
About the Author: Jared Hottle is the offensive coordinator, receivers coach and coordinates the punt and punt return team at Dakota State University. In his three years coordinating the punt team, he has had an all-conference punter twice and ranked in the Top-25 in punting yards. Follow him on Twitter at @CoachHottle