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The Spread Punt

by: Mike Sabock
Assistant Football Coach, Northern Illinios University
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There are some general concepts I need to mention before we get into the spread punt:

1. Get off time
††† The snapper and the punter are a unit that must work together. By this I mean the faster your snapper is the more time your punter can take. The slower your snapper is the faster the punter must be at getting the ball off. From the snap to the punt, any time over 2.1 seconds increases the chance of a punt being blocked. As a general rule, you would like the snap to take .8 seconds and the punter to catch and punt the ball in 1.3 seconds. You canít coach the punt team without a stopwatch in your hand!

2. Equal Practice
††† You must work your #1 punt team and your #2 punt team equally in practice. If the backup at a position is not prepared as well as the #1 player and he has to play, a mistake he makes on one punt can cost you the game. This is the one phase of the game that our #2ís get equal reps.

3. Personnel
††† The punt team is not the phase of the game to try to fit a second or third team player in. Your players, who are the best ones at executing your blocking technique and covering the field, are the players to use. If you have starters on your punt team because they are the best, so be it. However, sometimes your starters may not be the best because they think the punt is a time to relax a little bit. Obviously, as a coach you must combat that attitude but also realize that sometimes you can find a backup or a third team player that can execute your protection techniques and will do it with 100% effort. Donít make a player do it if he is not going to do it perfectly and with great effort.

Positions and Alignments (See Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 Positions and Alignments

General Rules:
††† The guards and tackles will line up with their inside foot forward and their outside foot back. We want the guards and tackles to be back off the ball as far as legally possible. This allows for maximum separation between our punt team and the rushers.

††† The guards, tackles and wings use the same stance. We want their inside foot up and their outside foot back with at least a one foot separation between the heel of their front foot, and the toe of the back foot. Hands should rest lightly on the thighs and the facemask should be over the front toes.

††† The split between the guard and center is six inches. If the center cannot snap and block to his right or left very well, you may have to go foot to foot with the guard and center. The tackles take a one-foot split between themselves and the guards. The wings align with the inside tip of their shoulder pads even with the outside tip of the tacklesí shoulder pads. The wings are aligned at a depth where they can reach out and just touch the rear end of their tackle (See Diagrams 2A and 2B).

Diagram 2A Correct Technique

Diagram 2B Incorrect Technique

††† As the ball is snapped, our technique should never vary. We will kick slide backward starting with the back foot. The purpose of this is to maintain as much separation as possible between us and the rushers. This is a must in order to be able to block twists. This kick slide should be fast and elongated. Players want to be as deep as they can be on the kick. It is also important that all the linemen obtain the same depth at the same time. We must have a solid wall of blockers after these kick slides are taken.

††† The wingís technique varies slightly. Wings line up with the same stance as the guards and tackles but their kick slide is slower which allows the tackle to catch up with them to form a solid pocket in which to punt the ball from (See Diagram 2C).

Diagram 2C Wing's Technique

Assignments (See Diagram 3)

Diagram 3 Assignments

††† We are a man protection team. We assign a man but if the rush team twists, we trade men. Our count system is from the outside in. The wings have #1, the tackles #2, the guards #3 and the center and personal protector have #4 and #5.

††† As we line up, each player counts from outside in to find their man. We keep our eyes on our man as we kick slide back. If our man is rushing and comes to us, we block him after our third kick slide (See Diagram 4).

Diagram 4 Kick Slide

††† If our man crosses with another rusher before he get to us, we block the ďnewĒ man (See Diagram 5).

Diagram 5 Finding a "New" man

††† As long as the guards and tackles take the same steps at the same speed and obtain the same depth, there are no rushes that canít be blocked by the wings, guards and tackles. They always are responsible for #1, #2 and #3. The personal protector is responsible for locating the #4 and #5 rusher. He then makes a call to tell the snapper whom to take and he is responsible for the other man himself (See Diagrams 6A and 6B).

Diagram 6A Personal Protector - 1

Diagram 6B Personal Protector - 2

††† As the center blocks, he must cushion at a 45-degree angle in the direction of the man he is blocking. We want our center to make his block a yard or two behind the line of scrimmage and the personal protector to make his block four yards behind the line of scrimmage
(See Diagram 7).

Diagram 7 Coverage

††† In the spread-punt formation, the gunners need to make a lot of tackles. If return teams are going to single cover gunners, you must get positive production from this position. We will punt the ball trying to constrict the full field down to two-thirds of the field. We want the ball to land outside the hash in the direction we call. By doing this, we can concentrate our coverage on two-thirds of the field instead of fanning the entire field.

††† We are going to cover from the hash away from the directional call, to the sideline, to the call. Obviously, if the ball does not get punted where it was supposed to be, we must adjust our coverage lanes on the run.

††† In conclusion, as you get into practicing the spread punt, you will find that the perfect and equal technique by your front line is the key to great protection. Because of this, we film our punt protection every day. We always film it from behind (the punterís view). If you have an end zone camera, thatís great. If you only have a sideline camera, turn your punt team with their backs to the camera and punt across the field. Every day, I critique our personnel and our technique.

About the Author
Mike Sabock
NIU Assistant coach Mike Sabock is in his 22nd year with the Huskies. The Defensive Ends Coach and Recruiting Coordinator, Sabock has worked with four NIU head coaches: Lee Corso, Jerry Pettibone, Charlie Sadler and Joe Novak. Since 1984, Sabock has coached the Huskie secondary (1984-86, 1995), outside linebackers (1987-94), tight ends (1996), defensive ends (1997-2006), and special teams. A 1977 graduate of Baldwin-Wallace, Sabock earned a master's in athletic administration from Kent State in 1981.

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