AFM RSS Feed Follow Us on Twitter       

   User Name    Password 
      Password Help

Article Categories

AFM Magazine

AFM Magazine

The Warhawk Way

by: Bob Berezowitz
Head Coach, Wisconsin-Whitewater
© More from this issue

Click for Printer Friendly Version          

Special teams practice and organization of time is always critical to any good football team. At UW-Whitewater, we have been very fortunate to have an offense that averages 40-plus points per game over the last three seasons. Along with a high-point average, comes a huge number of kick-offs and field position changes for our defense.

We select kick-off coverage personnel mostly from the defensive side, particularly linebackers and defensive backs. Occasionally, we will use a fast, agile offensive or defensive lineman or tight end. Once our selection process has been determined, we begin to do our progression drills to teach coverage.

During two-a-day session, we run a special segment in the morning while the remaining players are in an individual technique session. The first item we teach is proper spacing or field alignment depending on the placement of the ball.

L1/R1 - Safeties, they will go hard to the 25, then throttle down and play the return.

L2/R2 - "Certain" people, they must make sure the ball carrier stays inside and watches for reverses.

L3/L4/L5 - Attackers, these players must stay in proper lanes and adjust landmarks to the blocking scheme of the return.

R3/R4/R5 - Adjust to the landmarks of the blocking scheme of the return.

Kicker - The third safety in our scheme, adjusts to the return as it develops.

Determining a Starting Position

"Speed skills" are so important to kick-off coverage. It is imperative to find young men who can run, have a sense of urgency, and want to make something happen. They must love contact. We do not care if we look fancy or if everyone lines up the same. But every player has to cross the 35-yard line at the same time, going top speed.

If our players hit the line, we feel we can beat the first level of blockers with speed. We ask players to select a point, have the kicker step through and attack the line. If a player is too early or late, we never scream, we simply coach him to either take a step forward or backward, depending on the problem. The distance they run is only 15 yards past the kick-off point.

Once we have determined each player's starting point and have educated them on the importance of top acceleration, we move to the next drill.

The second drill we teach is how to beat a blocker with speed. We take two players, have one chase the other to a certain point, and pass him, or "come in the backdoor," as we phrase it. This drill teaches the tackler to beat the blocker with speed or go behind him once you get to his hip.

Player No. 1 begins with a 5-yard flying start. Player No. 2 is 6 yards ahead at cone C. When No. 1 reaches cone B, both players run as fast as they can toward cone E. No. 1 must either beat No. 2 to cone E or come in behind him when he reaches cone D. If you cannot pass the potential blocker by this time, he is in good position and must be avoided by the back door process. A rip or swing technique will be executed at cone D. We can run 4 or 5 pairs at a time. We create good drills by matching players with comparable speed.

The next concept we teach is to avoid the blocker, get back in your lane, frame up on the blocker, and make the tackle.

The drill is used to get many repetitions in a short period of time. For example, four different kinds of players can be utilized. The players in line No. 1 are individuals on your coverage team. Players in No. 2 are players too slow for the team, but very physical. Players in No. 3 will hold hand dummies. No. 4 will consist of ball carriers (with football in hand), who will be on your return team.

The object of the drill is for all the players in line No. 1 to hit the lines full speed, beat blocker No. 2 with a rip, swing, head and shoulder fake in the shortest route possible, and then get back in his lane and frame up with player No. 3, who is the potential blocker. They then wait for the whistle, read the ball carrier and frame up on him to make the tackle, but not put him on the ground. A key coaching point is to make sure the tackler puts his head across the ball carrier, not behind. Also watch for players who to run around the blocker, not fight him off and cross his face.

It is very important for the coach blowing the whistle for the tacklers to wait for everyone to arrive at player No. 3 having their feet moving and hands on the bag. On the whistle, they should react to the direction of the ball carrier. When the drill is completed, have all players jog around and back to a lane for another repetition. This will enable you to get maximum repetitions in a short period.

Attacking the blocker is a concept that is very hard to practice full speed. Players must understand full speed and that you can not avoid or run around a blocker at the second level. You must meet force with force, especially at a wedge point, and try to split the blockers as quickly as you can and still be able to make the tackle.

The next stage for the player is to know landmark positions. You must make sure they have equal distance between the man inside and outside. They never want to be in a position to have one blocker able to block two coverage people at the same time.

We always tell our coverage people to "keep the ball carrier inside or head up to you and try to keep your outside shoulder and arm free." The return man can run from hash-to-hash or take a few steps either left or right. The coverage players must react to his position, but never cross the 10-yard line. On the whistle, the entire coverage team will then put coverage on the ball carrier to make the tackle. (We only frame up)

When the segments of the coverage are taught, drilled and understood, we then set up a return by an entire team; walk them through the opponent's blocking assignment and align three players at a time to run three-quarter speed and react to each respective blocker. Then, we run through the entire unit as close to full speed as possible. We will not take the return man to the ground, just frame-up on him to avoid injury.

These steps may seem like simply a lot of drills and progression but once taught and reviewed, it will actually be of great value to your kick-off coverage team.


AFM Videos Streaming Memberships Now Available Digital Download - 304 Pages of Football Forms for the Winning Coach


Copyright 2024,
All Rights Reserved