Subs and Starters Recipe for Great Special Teams – Part 2

1. How do you stay aggressive and find the mismatches with your Specialties?

The Kick Blockers

First and foremost as Coach Beamer stated recruit the best whether they are starters or planned subs and role players on the depth chart combine results to get your blocker crew.  I typically look at the players that had the fastest a.) 10 yard split  b.) Best demo of explosion of course in the Vertical leap and standing broad c.) shuttle 4.1 typically or better with great body coordination. They don’t have to be tall they’ve got to be lightening quick and smart enough not to jump off-sides!  What numbers am I looking for fast enough to get the field goal/extra point kicker trios that are slower than 1.3 and punter trios (personal protectors, long snappers, and the punter) clocking slower than 2.1.  When is this done? —  pre-game warmups.  For me personally the most important time-frame is timing the opponent before the game.  I’m clocking the other team during warmups.  You’d be surprised how slow teams go executing the kicks during Pre-game warmups!!!! (LOL) Then they think it will change when it’s GAMETIME.  Of course we also look for tendencies and queues like the:   1.) Centers dropping their butts or heads before they snap 2.) Snappers that over-flex the wrist muscles 2.) Holders that always get the ball right when they point their hand or nod their head to the snapper 3.) Punters that take a false step or over-stride when trying to drive the ball on long punts.

We then tell the special units what tip to lookout for during the game.  Once we see it in the game.   We strike!   Other things we look for are:

a.) Typical Events controlled by Mother Nature (e.g., Blinding Sun, Mud, Winds). be ready to recover muffs!

b.) Mismatch on the line (e.g., Fatigued starter needing a rest or injury break, weak player we can overload (e.g., A super freshmen))

c.) Weird formations or repetitive rules (e.g., Unbalanced lines, spacing, protector always picking up the first man that shows) Stunts are great to create the seams by attacking through  two gaps or the edges.

Kicks and Coverage

a.) I keep it simple if I have a Kicker that can place it in the end zone with height he’s hired, if I don’t the athletic kicker that can tackle wins, if coverage is weak and tackling is poor! Otherwise, the most accurate kicker gets the job not always the strongest that may also be unpredictable and can’t place his kicks.

b.) Formations- Again is a winner here.  Simply Kick it where they AINT as they say in the South! Alignments that have players on the hash (i.e., 5 on the front line and 2 on the next , and two on the next with two in the end zone all lined up on the hash) leaving the numbers exposed is prime example of a vulnerable formation if you pooch kick to the numbers and place your fastest guys that can catch it on the fly to beat the competition to the ball.  I never understood why teams don’t call the pooch immediately when it’s recognized.  Another weird formation is the onside kick with everyone on the line and one man deep.  Just kick the ball to the deadspots and the race is on to recover if the deep man can’t fair catch the ball! Bye the way our recover rate was higher than 50%!

c.) Put the EGO and Testosterone away! It always cracks me up when guys kick to the most dangerous returner in the league!  WHY?!!!! Please tell me why?!!  Try to make it a 0% probability or as close as possible that it’s going for a touchdown at-least from the guy you know does return them for TDs!   Unless they fumble a lot — don’t do it.  It’s not worth it!

c.) If I have an athletic punter we are attacking the edge,  the middle, or  rugby punting and looking to run the minute the enforcers start sleeping on the job.  How do we usually know when to go.  Simple.   When the opponent has a plan to attack us.  A return is ON! That’s when they are most vulnerable.  Example they double team your GUNNERS they are vulnerable somewhere or the guy they send may just be simply slower than your punter!

2. How do you block out 1/3 of the game for Specialties and stick to it?

After begging your coach to stick to subbing with the backup guy the next series on offense or defense, make sure you try get 15 minutes done before practice and afterwards and 15 minutes after practice if possible and that extra 30 before game.  Be careful, don’t wear that crew out.  Also go over past performance and scouting for the vulnerabilities on the opponent before team film study so you already know where they’ll be.  I always watch both video the day after the game as soon as they were produced.  Unless you are the Head make it easy for him as time shrinks throughout the season and bodies wear down. Another thing…Gametime, don’t ask the entire staff to do the crazy plays just go to the Head man! Why? — no one consults you for a blitz or a screen.   The staff will always play the obvious ODDS!  Everyone takes credit after it works and you get the blame if it doesn’t! LOL It’s usually a macho thing. You didn’t play fair as your punter picks up forty yards running down the sideline.  It’s not how you win it’s if you win!

a.) Work specialties and your speed and conditioning drills so the team is productive and produces more time for the OFFENSE or DEFENSE or at-least it appears that way! Coaches tend to talk a lot when introducing new plays.  Be an ally!  If the team is conditioned well running forties and squeezing down and running lanes then there’s no excuse that everyone can jump on the field if for some dumb reason there are 10 on the field!!! LOL That never happens!  Place your returners opposite the wind sprints and make your Return Men take it to the House every sprint. The opponent must touch the returner or breakdown around him at the end of the run.  Have the next wave lined up with the 2nd team kicker or punter.  Then the 3rd and so on. No rest!!! I know it’s obvious to most! But there are others that think that’s when the guys need to rest their wounds. That’s what ice baths are for….Throughout the season players tend to get hurt less and maintain productivity throughout the season if they stay conditioned.   They’ll hate it!

b.) Don’t make specialties “a dumping ground” for people you want to travel or someone you like that reminds of you when you were young!  Get the best otherwise you can lose integrity with the staff and possibly your job!  I’ve seen it in college where the Coach wants to stay out of trouble with promises they made with parents during the recruiting process.  Player is on the bench. So they nominate the player for specialties. He doesn’t fit.

c.) All BS aside make it SPECIAL! Enforcers, Kamikazees, Contain Men and Safeties all require special skills.  If your guys don’t squeeze and run lanes and know how to “knife” through opponents — creates big gaps.  It’s just a matter of time unless you have one helluva kicker.

3. How do you get creative with drills and get all of the players involved?

Do drills to go over the RULES!!!  For example I’ve seen guys thinking it’s fumble after we blocked the kick and the ball went over the line of scrimmage.  Instead of staying away, they tried to scoop it up muffed it and the other team got the ball back!!! I once visit Rutgers when my son was recruited and I loved the device Coach Schiano designed. A simple mannequin’s leg with a football attached to the foot that swung on a wooden pendulum. Players stood in line one after the other during 1st step explosion drills to block the kick.  That way you don’t hurt the real kicker!

Everyone loves recognition! Give on the spot awards!!!

a.) Contest to catch pooch kicks! Between your three kickers to the six fastest guys!

b.) Relay races with your 1st and 2nd team FG units (holder, snapper, kicker) to start at the 20 and work back to the 50 yd. field goal if possible against the clock.

c.) Skeletal kick block contest; Time the intersecting point; Making sure hand positions and bodies are meeting in the “safe block zone” not roughing the kicker zone!

d.) Timed line drills! To ensure guys are running lanes, evading and returning on course under a set threshold as a group, otherwise you are creating holes.  If that’s the case someone may need to be replaced.  It could be the slow guy or the fast guy!

IMPORTANT! Do all of these drills in front of team to ensure they understand the VALUE to the Team.


Enjoy…until the next time. Coach Nick






About askcoach

A Former student-athlete, performance trainer, inventor, public speaker and businessman, Coach Nick dedicated himself to help other student-athletes transform their lives before, during and after sports. To ensure student-athletes and their families use sports instead of sports using them. Coach Savage has trained or spoken nationally to thousands of student-athletes and coaches. As the inventor of the Savage Hill, Coach Nick has trained some of the top teams in the nation. He continues to fight for kids opportunities to achieve through sports and beyond.
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One Response to Subs and Starters Recipe for Great Special Teams – Part 2

  1. Howard Winchell says:

    Coach Nick – I really wanted to commend you on your content, authenticity, & straight-talk honesty! It’s addictive and refreshing!!! Keep writing! You should be heard!!

    Fball Einstein!

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