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Special Teams – Practice Schedule, Goals, and Critique

by: Erik Ieuter
Special Teams Coordinator, Michigan Tech
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Our players understand the importance of special teams because of the amount of time that we put in coaching them. Starting in the spring, we spend a minimum of 10 minutes per day on the “big four” – punt, kickoff, kick return and punt return. We also put in extra point/field goal work in every day. We keep it fresh by changing up drills as much as possible.

We run a traditional punt formation and we changed our scheme slightly and spent a lot of time in the spring on punt. It paid off as we went from #12 in the league in net punting to #3 in 2010 with no blocked punts, giving up only 0.5 yards per return. Here is a sample of our schedule.

Practice #1

PUNT - 4 Minutes - Stance, kick slide vertical depth (2 groups).

3 Minutes - Group kick slide (Right/Left side - make call with center snap and PP).

3 Minutes - Everyone together - kick slide and release on air.

Bullets work releases.

Practice #2

PUNT - Pre-practice - kick slide on line - work vertical depth.

3 Minutes - Stance, kick slide vertical depth.

4 Minutes - 1/2 group kick slide on air.

3 Minutes - Punt together on air.

Bullets work opposite shoulder.

Practice #3

PUNT - Pre-practice - kick slide - work vertical depth.

2 Minutes - 1/2 group kick slide.

8 Minutes - 1/2 group vs. balanced.

Vs. stacks, twists, floaters, overloads, 2 tight A gaps,

2 through a hole.

Bullets - opposite shoulder and release and stack.

Practice #4
Pre-practice - kick slide - work vertical depth.

PUNT RETURN - 3 Minutes - Trash Can Get Off Drill
(with punt team, rip and get skinny).

7 Minutes - Volleyball Block Drill.

Practice #5
Pre-practice - punt half line vs. rush.

PUNT - 4 Minutes - Together teach release on air-exit points
and containmen.

6 Minutes - Protect full team with different calls and looks.

Bullets - release and stack.

Practice #6
Pre-practice - punt half line with different calls.

PUNT - 2 Minutes - together kick slide on air.
3 Minutes - Getting off hold ups and to exit points.

5 Minutes - Protect vs. balanced twists, overload, stacks, floaters.

Practice #7 (SCRIMMAGE)
Punt/Punt Return (2 teams) - 3 Reps each

Practice #8
Pre-Practice - punt half time stacks/twists.

PUNT - 5 Minutes - Protect vs. balanced, stack, twist, overload, rail.

5 Minutes - Protect vs. looks with other calls.

Bullets work punting in and other variations (vs. fair catch).

Practice #9
Pre-Practice - Explain KO drills.

KICK OFF - Kickoff Cover Drill Circuit.

6 Minutes - Leverage Drills (two different groups).

Blast and Shed drills (one group).

3 Minutes - Get offs and jog down in lanes.

Practice #10
Pre-Practice - Punt ˝ line, bullets work “punting in” and fair catch.

PUNT - 2 Minutes - Together kick slide on air.

8 Minutes - Protect vs. looks and odd variations.

Practice #11 (SCRIMMAGE)
Punt/Punt Return (Two teams) - 3 reps each

Practice #12
Pre-Practice - special emphasis.

PUNT - 2 Minutes - Together kick slide on air.

5 Minutes - Together vs. looks.

3 Minutes - Fakes.

Practice #13
Pre-Practice - Go through KOR drill circuit.

KICK RETURN - 10 Minute KOR drill circuit.

-Front Line Drills.

    1. Screen and collision.

    2. Drops and getting in phase.

- Double Team Drills and Single Block Drills.

- Returner/Off Returner Drills in end zone.

 Practice #14
Pre-Practice - punt footwork.

PUNT - 5 Minutes - protect vs. looks (1 full cover).

5 Minutes - Special situations.

Punt/Punt Return (Two Teams) - 3 reps each

As we head into the season, we have one of the very first meetings of fall camp just for special teams. We hand out special teams playbooks. Our players understand the importance of special teams because they have a playbook with schemes, philosophies, rules, tips and other statistics in it. Why should they get an offensive or defensive playbook and not a special team one? In that first meeting, we talk about things that we need to improve upon from the previous year and from the spring. Then we talk about our goals which are:


1.  WIN.
2.  100% penalty free.
3.  Score or set up a score.
4.  Hold opponents inside the 30 yard line on kickoff.
5.  Return the ball to 35 yard line on kick return.
6.  Average net punt - 38 yards.
7.  Opponents average net punt - 35 yards.
8.  100% on placement kicks inside 40 yards.
9.  Win the ‘Hidden Yardage’ (Punts 35 net, KO’s 30).

The next big key to getting players to buy into our special teams is how we sell it to them (You can earn a spot on the bus by playing special teams). We have an up-to-date special teams depth chart up at all times. It consists of offensive and defensive starters (especially on the punt team) and guys that may only play on the kickoff team or punt return team. This helps team morale because so many more guys feel a part of the team. It is always a debate as to whether to play the starter who may be playing 70 snaps on offense or defense or to play the kid who will give his right arm to be on the field and will have 100% focus on the special teams game plan. I think you need both, but I love the kid that gives everything and takes pride in his special teams role.

Our players have to know that they are getting all the information that they need to be successful. They know when they get their special teams scouting report at the beginning of game week that they are prepared for everything. The first page of the scouting report is the game plan section for punt, kickoff, kick return and punt return. This will also include a few bullet points for each the opponents’ punt block alignments. This will include their “safe” alignment and all of their top blocks.

Next, it will have their top returns and also statistics about their returner and where they rank in the conference. It will have how many times we’ve seen that rush on film and their personnel will be detailed. The next section is the opponents’ kick return which will have their base alignment and then personnel (#, height and weight). All of their returns will be charted based on hash, return direction, returner #, and the yard line returned to. Then, all of their top returns will be drawn up or it will be predicted as to how they will block our kickoff scheme.

The next section will be a team’s kickoff alignment which will include their personnel details. Then there is a “kick hit chart” and every kick by game will be charted on a football field diagram. The next page is coverage lanes by the kickoff team. The last section is our opponents’ punt team. Their alignment (whether they are shield or traditional) will be drawn up along with personnel. There is a “punt hit chart” diagrammed for each game. Other things that are charted are the long snappers direction of snap, which way he blocks, direction of punts, get off time, hang time and who makes the tackle on the punt team. Releases by the gunners are also charted (inside or outside). Also, any fakes that we have seen by that team either this year or in the past are included as well.

Our first meeting on Monday after Saturday’s game is on special teams. We first go over on how we did in accomplishing our goals. The next thing that we go over is something I got from special teams guru Dave Arnold called the “Effects of the Kicking Game”. I go through all of the positives or negatives during the game in special teams. They then truly understand how important each play is when they step on the field because special teams plays can make or break a game. Here is a sample of our “effects”.


- PUNT, LEC has 12 yard return, 23 yard net.

+ PUNT, MTU has 43 yard punt w/ penalty for 59 yard net.

+ KO, MTU makes tackle at -25.

+ KO, MTU makes tackle at -14.

+ KO, MTU makes tackle at -23.

+ KO, MTU makes tackle at -22.

+ KO, MTU makes tackle at -24.

- KO, LEC returns ball to -40.

- KO, LEC returns ball to -43.

+ KOR, MTU has 89 yard touchdown!

- KOR, MTU returns ball to -27.

+ PR, MTU has 12 yd return, 26 yard net.

- PR, LEC has 39 yard net punt.

+ PR, LEC has 16 yard net punt.

- FG, MTU misses 26 yard FG.

The last thing to show importance toward special teams is that each player gets a grade sheet (which has the goals and the “effects” on it). Every play on special teams has grades on punt, kickoff, kick return and punt return. By getting feedback on special teams, they know they are being watched every play and they know that it “matters”. Each player will get a zero if they did their job or it was a non-factor, a PLUS if they made a great play or a minus if they did not do their job. There is also room for a small note for each player.

About the Author: Erik Ieuter enters his seventh season this fall at Michigan Tech and fourth as Offensive Coordinator. He also serves as Special Teams Coordinator. Ieuter coached at both Adams State and Grand Valley State before joining the Michigan Tech staff. He played wide receiver for four seasons at Albion, graduating in 2003.


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