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Ducks Two-Step Punt Skills

Specific Techniques, Skills, and Drills for the Two Step Punter
by: Mike Beliotti
Head Coach, University of Oregon
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For the sake of clarity we will assume the punter kicks with his right foot. To properly coach the punter you should stand directly behind or beside him on his right side.

Goals: The first goal is to get the punt off. We would like the punt to be away in 2.2 seconds, have a minimum of 4.5 seconds of hang time, and travel a minimum of 40 yards. Hang time is more important than distance. A general rule of thumb is always to demand more than one second of hang time per 10 yards of punt. We utilize a spread punt formation and want our net punt to be 38 yards or better. We can not allow any punts to be blocked. Last year we averaged over 42 yards per punt, almost 38 yards net punt, and no punts blocked.

Alignment: Our punter stands 15 yards directly behind the center. We tell the snapper that the aiming point is inside the punter's right hip. The punter should catch the ball with the heel of his right foot at 15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Stance: The punter's weight must be balanced on the inside balls of his feet, his feet should be approximately shoulder width apart. The left foot must be slightly ahead with a toe to instep stagger, while his knees and waist are slightly bent with his head and eyes up. The arms should be slightly bent at the elbows as they are held comfortably forward while loosely framing target.

Catch: Ball should be caught inside the right hip. The punter must slide step to get his proper alignment when catching an errant snap. For a low snap, he must watch it in all the way while bending at the waist and knees being careful to keep his knees off the ground so the ball is not downed. He should block and scoop the ball like a shortstop. On any errant snap, the most important thing is to get the punt off. The punter should align himself to kick back through the center of his protection. Prior to the snap, the punter should focus on the snapper's hands and the ball. He should utilize a hard focus on the ball in flight all the way back to his hands while focusing softly on the rush. The punter should look the ball into his hands, catching it with arms extended, slight bend in elbows and little fingers together. He must make sure to catch the ball with his fingertips, at waist to elbow height with his right hand on the back and side of the ball. The left hand should be opposite, thus slightly forward and to the side balancing the pressure. As he catches the ball, he must increase his stagger by dropping the right foot back and left foot forward as his weight shifts to his left foot in preparation for the first step with the right foot.

Grip: Ball should be shifted or spun so that the laces are up and the back point of the ball is in the right hand held by his fingers. Think of it as shaking hands with the ball. The thumb should be on the upper left panel of the ball at approximately 10 o'clock and first finger should be placed in the upper right panel at approximately 2:00 o'clock. this would put the long finger at 3:00 o'clock and the third and fourth fingers comfortably spaced below. We allow our punters to experiment with their grip. they may rotate their fingers in either direction about 20 degrees, putting the thumb and /or first finger on the seams while keeping laces up. As he does this with the right hand, the left hand slides forward and underneath the ball.

First Step: All steps should be on balance and under control. The punter should feel as though he is walking, not leaping or lunging. It is important to step straight forward with the right foot using a short to medium length stride (2-3 feet), lowering ball directly over or slightly inside the right hip with two hands still holding the ball. All the while, the left arm is extended and the right arm is bent. The right elbow must remain at his side moving forward and pointing down at the right foot as he extends the ball. The punter must keep his right shoulder back to hold the line through his shoulders perpendicular to the direction he wants the ball kicked making sure not to turn his hips. Make sure he steps in as straight a line as possible. The ball should not be lowered below his waist or raised higher than the elbow, there should be a comfortable, rhythmic motion accompanying the ball movement forward. The punter should stay tall yet maintain slight body lean forward.

Second Step: The punter must step straight forward with his left foot utilizing a medium to long stride (5-6 feet) being careful not to over stride. The coach should stress a controlled on balance walking motion. It is important to get a full foot plant with the left foot, not a heel plant. The left hand will come away from the ball as it is extended over the knee of the kicking leg, as it sweeps down and away from the body for balance. The upper body should stay at a 90o angle in relation to the ground. The punter should not lean forward or backward as this results in a loss of power. The punter should have his hips cocked, meaning waist forward and hips back. The right leg is bent and loaded behind the punter as he accelerates through, led by his knee. As this occurs, the punter should drive the hips forward and up which provides increased power and lift. The right leg remains bent until the upper leg approaches a parallel alignment with the left plant leg. At that point, the punter straightens his leg at the knee joint, accelerating the foot through the ball. Complete extension of the leg at the knee joint should occur simultaneous to or just after contact with the ball. This contact should occur with his ankle extended. Most punters tend to bring their leg slightly across their body. Consequently, we generally use the line over the knee as a point of reference for contact. This is something you need to work out with you punter. To do this, stand behind him and see if you can see the ball, or his leg swing outside or across his body. We would like to have both ball movement and leg swing be within the frame of the body. Ball placement on the inside or outside of the knee is determined by evaluating the path of the foot throughout the leg swing.

Release: Do not toss or flick the ball. The punter should release it as he is lowering it on to his foot by extending his fingers outward simultaneously with little or no wrist action. To do this effectively, we prefer that the majority of the fingers be on the side or top of the ball rather than under the ball. This allows the ball to drop forward in line with the leg as a result of the natural straightening of the arm. It should be done in a manner that allows the nose or front point of the ball to stay level, or slightly down and in, toward the midline of the body. As a general rule, keep the ball level to the ground and pointed in the direction you want the punt to travel. Having the line of the laces point at your right shoulder is another means of insuring proper alignment. When in poor weather, we want to minimize the amount of time the ball is in the air so we hold the ball longer before releasing.

Contact Point: The contact point should be 2-3 feet ahead of the plant foot at knee height. The ball should be contacted on the top right side of the punter's foot with the ankle extended as much as possible. The ball should be seated on the foot in a manner such that the center of the ball is contacted by the enter of the striking area of the foot, about midway between the toes and the ankle joint. When done correctly, 1-2 inches of the ball will protrude beyond the toes on contact. The long axis of the ball should be in line or turned inside 10-15 degrees and across the midline of the foot. The inside edge of the ball will line up with, or just overlap, the inside edge of the foot. At contact we would like the foot and ball to be parallel to the ground so you have two flat surfaces creating maximum contact and transference of force. If the ball is too far forward, the punter will strike the back half of the ball creating and end over end kick. If the punter has the ball too far back, he will strike the front end of the ball keeping the nose up, not allowing it to turn over, costing him distance. If the ball is placed too far to the right on the outside of the foot, the ball will spiral and go right, lacking hang time and distance. If the ball is placed too far to the left, across the crown of the foot, the ball will go left, usually resulting in a very poor punt. We are convinced that the most important aspect of productive punting is developing a consistent drop or release that places the ball on the punter's foot the same way every time.

Into the wind, we will force ourselves to stay down, not lean back, thus driving the ball by keeping our contact point low. With the wind or punting on our half of the field we will raise our contact point as high as mid-thigh. The punter still does not lean back but he emphasizes a great, high follow through. It is important to drive the foot directly through the ball, not across the ball. The spiral action will come naturally as a result of correct ball placement and the slanted kicking surface of your foot. Kicking across the ball to insure a spiral is like striking a glancing blow. It results in a loss of force thus losing distance and hang time. You can check this from behind the punter. When kicked correctly, the ball will rise up into flight between the punter's right shoulder and head.

Follow Through: Follow through of the right leg should be up and through the contact point, not allowing inward rotation of the hip to occur until after the ball has been contacted. The foot should ideally follow through above the head on the same side of the head. Many punters will not have the flexibility to allow this and their follow through will go across the face and end up on the opposite side of the head. We like the punter to explode up and through the ball, actually leaving the ground and traveling several feet straight ahead on the left foot. We call this our hip drive. We want to drive the hips up and out in the same trajectory we want the ball to follow. You can not get this hip drive if you lean back or forward. When the right foot comes down it should land slightly ahead of the left foot in a balanced position with the shoulders facing straight ahead.

General Points: Body control and balance throughout the entire motion are crucial to a punter's success. It is imperative to eliminate as many movement variables as possible. The punter should strive to keep his hips and shoulders square to the target line throughout the entire movement. He should avoid any gross up and down or side to side movements of hands, arms, legs, shoulders, head, or eyes.

The key points to remember are:

1. Keep body mechanics upright and in line.

2. Utilize a relaxed, walking manner.

3. Develop ball handling skills and a consistent drop.

4. Establish proper ball placement on the foot.

5. Improve hip drive.

6. Perfect leg swing and follow through.

Punter's Drill Work

Suspended Ball Swings - Utilizing a ball or similar object hanging from the goal post, we will do a progression of step approaches and kick swings in order to develop and refine better postural push-off, acceleration, and follow-through. We begin with the ball suspended approximately chest level, directly over a line on the ground that the athlete maintains direction upon. The drill sequence is as follows:

1. Standing 2-foot take-off to a double knee touch. Emphasize a torso erect posture, with shoulders and chest forward of the hips for both take-off and landing. Projection of the hips upward (hip drive). "Hips square to target" relationship. Execute a slight countermove via knee flexion. Jump and flex the knees and hips in an attempt to touch the ball.

2. One-half step to a support leg knee touch. This step aids to develop greater velocity in projection of the hips forward and upward while maintaining posture. Maintain balance during approach, during take-off, and upon landing. Extension and flexion of the torso throughout the powerful take off motion. Remain "square" to the target. Raise the ball the chin level to perform:

3. One step approach to swing knee touch. Switching to emphasis on the "transference of force" from the support leg to the swing leg. Create increased velocity via push-off and swing-through. The final drill in the progression is done with the ball suspended at slightly above forehead level.

4. Full approach to swing foot touch. Simulates the punting motion completely. The coach must emphasize complete adherence to the specific approach and follow-through movement. Points of emphasis are: Proper stride length; squared approach; and follow-through. Also stress that the kicker keep his upper body postured forward of the hips. "Stay over the ball." Maintain balance along the direct line of execution.


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