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Developing an Efficient Kickoff Team – Following a detailed teaching progression for your kickoff team will maximize their potential.

by: Juan Vasquez
Special Teams Coach, Florida A & M University
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There are many factors that contribute to a successful season on special teams. The most important factor is the strong support and focus of the head coach to ensure that players and coaches are committed to this phase of the game. We always begin our practices with special teams and then break to offense and defense. That goes for installation meetings, film review and practice. We start with 20 minutes of special teams and end practice with a field goal or punt. The importance of special teams is understood by everyone in the program.

Our special teams are also bolstered by who we have coaching, and who we have on the field during special teams. We have all assistant coaches participate in coaching/teaching special teams. On punt, for example:

DBs coach has the right guard and tackle, TEs, and protection technique

TEs coach has the left guard and tackle, TEs,  and protection technique

ST coordinator has the shield, LS, and punter

WR coach has the gunner release technique

Personnel wise, we have two types of players participating in the drills – starters on defense and offense and core ST players. We like our offensive and defensive starters to start on one or two of our special teams. We prefer to have them volunteer for which phase they like. That way, we have maximum effort. Our core special team players are players who are backups, but are special teams starters for us. They start on three to four special teams units. These athletes take a lot of pride in their role, and develop a sense of purpose.  With a nice mix of starters and core players, we have personnel that can compete at a high level.

Finally, we use the “Three Ps” to get us through the season successfully. The first P is Philosophy. Players and coaches must understand the scheme, the how and why. The second P is Personnel. Again, a nice combination of starter and core players can run the scheme effectively. The third P is Personality. We want to develop a personality and identity on each special teams unit. As the season goes on, the players’ thought process becomes like the coach’s. They can finish what you started to say when studying film or making in-game adjustments.

One of the most successful units has been our kickoff team. Here is how we implement the “Three P’s” for an exciting and efficient kickoff team.


Teaching progression: scheme, get-offs, reads, avoids/moves, finish

•  Scheme – (Diagram 1) An aggressive, gap-sound defense. Deep, directional kicks with hang time. Be fast, be physical and finish.

Diagram 1.

•  Get-offs – Five yards from the ball, we straddle the 30, face inside, and turn and run once the kicker is two yards in front of us. When watching film, end up one yard from ball facing forward, working toward full speed when the ball is kicked.

•  Reads – What is the return team doing? What is the return? You do not want the cover team thinking. Film review and reps make reactions to reads instinctive.

•  Avoids/Moves – We do not teach lanes. Run down full speed. If you are blocked, avoid and then get to ball. If you are unblocked, get to the point of attack. At this point, be physical. We teach many moves (Diagram 2). Give the players freedom to use the ones they are best at and what is best for the situation.

Diagram 2.

•  Finish – Accelerate, shoot your gap, take your shot, and make the tackle. A circuit of each phase of kickoff scheme drills can also be done individually (Diagram 3).

Diagram 3.

Here is a guide to the type of players you want at each position:

1.  Attackers – players with speed and agility – DBs, WRs, RBs, LBs.

2.  Stuffers – bigs with speed that can’t be moved out of the way – TEs, bigger LBs, big safeties.

3. Safeties  - sure tacklers and those that can shoot gaps – safeties and corners.

    We tell our players that, at all levels of football, playing special teams is how you first get on the field. You can also catch the attention of the recruiters or scouts at the next level by your play on special teams.

Our 2010/2011 KO teams called themselves, “The Regulators”. The huddle-up call was, “Regulators! Mount Up!” They flew fast and hit hard, and had fun doing it. That team had freshman safeties, walk-on corners, and starting wide receivers running down the field. It was amazing and fun to coach. This is what we strive for every year.

About the Author: Juan Vasquez completed his fourth season at Florida A & M as both the kicking coach and special teams coach. A FAMU alum, he was an All-American kicker, holding the school record for most career field goals made (66). Vasquez received his Bachelor’s Degree in 2006.

Coach Vasquez  answers your questions on Facebook - just go

Want more articles on this subject:

Kickoff Coaching Strategies – December, 2012
Kickoff Block Destruction Progression – October, 2012
Maximizing Your Kickoff Coverage – December, 2011


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