By Mike Cieri, DL and Special Teams Coach
Montclair State University
Now that the players understand their job descriptions and techniques now it is time place them into a basic scheme based on various punt alignments, blocking types and coverage. Below, the next two diagrams will demonstrate on how the various job description are incorporated into a basic return first, block second scheme.
As demonstrated in the 10 up Rain return diagram vs pro punt kick-slide, the #2 is the block specialist. The #3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 are the trail & fit players while #9 is a modified trail & fit with contain principles first. All players in the interior front 8 are in a 3-point stance. The #1 & 10 are the swatters. They align off the ball 5 to 6 yards deep and 1 yard inside the gunner (stinger). Depending on field position, down & distance and possible fake area the alignment is brought closer to the LOS. The IF on the diagram indicates that the trail & fit will rush to the inside shoulder of their assignment relative to the ball and drive the block back only allowing him to release to the outside. The return is a tunnel return where the ball is punted to. A coaching point for an alley/sideline return to the right would be to have, for example, the #6, 7, 8, & 9 use an outside force while the #2, 3, 4, & 5 uses an inside force. The #10 swatter can keep his gunner to the outside or if the gunner gets inside wash him across the center of the field. The #1 swatter must keep his gunner to the outside. The block specialist will loop around after the block attempt and work back towards the returner from outside-in. We will also use schemes where we double either one or both of the gunners by inserting extra swatters and removing two of the trail & fit players. In addition, we could double the returners and take out the trail & fit responsible for the PP or Center (who is the most dangerous man downfield).
As demonstrated in the 10 up Boom block diagram vs. pro punt kick-slide, the #2 & 3 are the block specialists. The #4, 5 are trail & fit players. #6 & 7 will rush the A-gaps beating the center. The rusher which encounters the PP will take him and will become a trail & fit player. The other will put pressure on the punter. #8 will rush the G & T Gap Get skinny and put pressure on the punter to the block point. The #6, 7, & 8 trail & fit players can be replaced with your next best block specialist to increase the potential to block the punt. #9 remains as a modified trail & fit with contain principles first and scope and score. All players in the interior front 8 are in a 3-point stance. The #1 & 10 are the swatters. They align off the ball 5 to 6 yards deep and 1 yard inside the gunner (stinger). Depending on field position, down & distance and possible fake area the alignment is brought closer to the LOS
If the opponent’s basic scheme is a shield punt with man protection, we will utilize the same force principle but will be in a 2-point stance and using mirror technique by the trail & fit players. When we face shield punts we will utilize as many quality swatters as we have (usually more DB’s) as the trail & fit players who are usually more strong safety, LB, agile RB types. Below, the next two diagrams will demonstrate on how the various job description are incorporated into a basic return first, block second scheme.
As demonstrated in the 10 up NFL Rain return diagram vs shield punt with man protection, we rush from the inside the #5 as the block specialist with the main concept to make sure the ball is punted. The #2, 4, 6, 8, & 9 are the trail & fit players using the mirror technique. All players are in a 2-point stance. The #1 & 10 are the swatters aligned on the LOS if they are part of a double team concept (NFL) as shown. If we are not doubling the last man on the LOS they will align off the LOS slightly. We could with this scheme double team any of the front line punt personnel. We elect most of the time to not block the shield players as they are usually a lesser threat downfield. The #3 & 7 are the extra double teamer (NFL vice players). The IF on the diagram indicates that the trail & fit (mirror technique) will keep the contact on the inside shoulder of their assignment only allowing him to release to the outside. This is a tunnel return to the ball where punted. A coaching point for an alley/sideline return to the right would be to have, for example, the #6, 8, 9, & 7/10 using an outside force while the #2, 4, & 1/3 are using an inside force
As shown in the 10 up Boom block diagram vs. shield punt with man protection, we will rush 8 players (#3, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) as the block specialist knowing that some of the rushers will be blocked or slowed down the block point. The #1 & 10 are the swatters and the contain players making sure there is not a fake. All players get off from a 2-point stance. The key to blocking the punt is in attacking the shield blockers. The first rusher from the outside on the punter’s leg side must attack one arm’s length from wing blocker with a dip & rip. The first inside rusher to the punter’s leg side must attack the inside shoulder of that same wing. The rushers away from the kicker’s leg side will attack the outside shoulder of the PP and the opposite wing. We attempt to hit the shield simultaneously. The overall concept is to have the shield move their feet and lose their wall blocking continuity. This is a tunnel return to the ball where punted
Once the scheme is developed and the individual skills are mastered the group portion of the ‘Punt Pod’ drill is used to build the coordination between players and the scheme. The team portion of this drill is utilized to simulate game day situations. A scout team is assembled based on the opponent’s alignment. The scout team is instructed to use the opponent’s blocking scheme and techniques for escape and coverage. The drill is broken down into 3 segments (stingers and swatters, last 2 outside players outside of the interior, and the rest of the players from the interior). Both the left and right sides of each group go together. Using a pre-determined script, the coach signals one group to go. On the center’s snap of the ball, the selected pod grouping springs into action according to the scheme and both units execute their proper techniques. A return or a block scheme can be performed using this drill. The punter kicks and the returner catches the football & reads the coverage, finding his running lane (tunnel) while moving the ball upfield
About the Author:
Mike Cieri is a coaching veteran of 38 college seasons and 45 seasons overall, including high school head coaching. Cieri is the Special Teams Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach for the 10th Winningest Division III football program, Montclair State University. Since 2003, Cieri’s special teams have made 3 kickoff returns and 8 punt returns for touchdowns scoring 60 points and produced 51 PAT/FG Blocks (1 score) and 36 Punt Blocks (6 for TD’s) scoring a total of 44 points from those efforts. The Red Hawks have ranked number one in kickoff returns and/or punt returns for 10 out of the last 15 years under Coach Cieri’s tenure. In 2010, Cieri’s punt return unit ranked in the top three nationally among Division III teams with the nation’s second-best punt returner. The Red Hawk punting and kicking coverage units as well as the return units have been of the best statistically in the New Jersey Athletic Conference over his 15 year tutelage.