Building Winning Special Teams with Core Principles – Part IV
By Mike Cieri, Defensive Line and Special Teams Coordinator
Montclair State University
The Shock Hold –up drill is based on the type of blocking we will be seeing and technique we will use to delay the coverage downfield. The blocks we encounter during the season are kick – slide (Pro Punt Protection) and Hit & Run (Shield Punt Protection). For kick slide we will be in a modified sprinter stance (3 pt) and for the other two we will be in a 2 pt. athletic stance. Drive and come to balance for the kick slide begins with the blocker pass setting off the LOS as quickly as possible. A center snaps the ball and a rusher explodes off the line of scrimmage from a modified sprinter stance. The rusher must make up ground, get to the blocker quickly and use his hands with a shock & lock technique (similar to a defensive linemen’s jam). The rusher continues to run his feet driving the blocker back. At no time during the push back should the rusher drop his hands. By scheme, the rusher will know what shoulder to attack (force) staying square on 65% of the blocker’s body.
When the blocker’s first attempt to escape happens, the defender drops his hands, gets his feet underneath him (comes to balance), turns and looks for the returners / ball position. The rusher now becomes a trail and fit player. The trail and fit player, once the returner/ball position is located, immediately sprints on an angle towards the returner. This is a different technique than the traditional trail and fit like a defensive back in-phase with a receiver. We will have 4 players going at one time (two on each side of the center about 5 to 7 yards apart). A punter/coach will punt/throw the ball to a returner to the right, middle and left so that the trail and fit player can locate the ball and sprint on the proper angle.
If we encounter a team that uses Hit & Run (Shield Punt Protection) we use a mirror technique as an offensive lineman would use on pass protection. Once again the set – up for this drill will be the same as the kick – slide as described above (two blockers on each side of the center). The rushers would line up in a two-point stance across from the blockers. On the snap, the blocker moves and the rusher mirrors staying in front of him. The blocker can shuffle, juke, spin or bull rush to get off of the rusher and get to coverage.
There are three main coaching points. First, the rushers must maintain the proper pass protection posture (hands up, elbows tight, hands at the chest, chest proud, wide base, bend in the knees). Secondly, keep eyes on the blocker, move feet according while keeping a strong wide base, never crossing over the feet, never lunging forward, keeping hands up. Lastly, read the release & engage the blocker with your hands, lock out the hands and arms and jumping the feet back to maintain leverage. When the blocker’s first attempt to escape happens, the defender drops his hands, gets his feet underneath him (comes to balance), turns and looks for the returners / ball position. The rusher now becomes a trail and fit player. The trail and fit player once the returner/ball position is located, immediately sprints on an angle towards the returner. This phase is identical if the punt team employed the kick-slide protection.
Station #3, 4 5: Mirror (Shimmy/Retrace/Run-By)
Sprint to Returner
Ahead/Even/Slightly Behind the Defender
Establish Shimmy Block/Re-trace/Run-by Techniques
Get on Proper Shoulder – Maintain the Block
The second phase of the core principles occurs downfield nearest the returner. The mirror concept is about the fitting into the defender on the proper 65% to block him creating a tunnel for the returner to advance the ball through. All the mirror drills are set up the same way. The different with each drill occurs at the end of drill depending on how the defender (coverage player) attempts to go after the returner or the position on the blocker (trail & fit player). The trail & fits landmark is on the sideline shoulder of the returner 5 yards up field from where the ball is going to caught. If the trail and fit player is ahead of the defender he will utilized the shimmy block technique. The shimmy block technique is where the trail & fit beat the defender to the spot in front of the return, whips is butt to the returner and slowly attacks the defender using many of the mirror techniques as described above. If the defenders attempted to play over the top, the trail & fit will re-trace either using a man or zone turn just like a defensive back. In this case the trail & fit should ride the defender across the return lane to the other side. For the above two techniques, demand that your trail & fit players. If the trail & fit is slightly behind the defender we teach the trail & fit to accelerate pass the defender, throw their hands up and run in front of the defender screening him off. We called this technique a run-by. It also prevents a stupid penalty.
Set up for each of the drills is the same. Make sure that the trail & fit players are 1 to 2 yards behind the coverage player. All players have an inside force leverage on the coverage players and the tunnel for the returner will be between the right and left side trail & fit players. On the ‘go’ command, the players sprint down the field to a cone, approximately 20 – 25 yards. When the players get halfway to the cone, the coach flips the ball high in the air to the returner. The defenders once they reach the cone close in on the ball in on the ball carrier. Now the trail & fit must use one of the 3 techniques described above. A coaching point for this would be to create 3 stations at first and have each station concentrate on one technique. Once the trail & fit players have experienced the different blocks you can use one station and mix and match the coverage players’ techniques to get to the returner.