Since 2012, New Mexico Military Junior College has blocked or disrupted 31 punts resulting in three TDs and multiple safeties and it isn’t by accident. Defensive coordinator Jamison Bisch devotes the time needed in practice to orchestrate a disruptive punt block unit. In his clinic report, Coach Bisch covers his rush technique, return technique, hold-up technique and blocking technique. He also details how his unit gets “home” with base, overload and hold-up schemes.
By Jamison Bisch
Former Defensive Coordinator
New Mexico Military Institute Junior College, Roswell, NM
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Since 2012, we have blocked/disrupted 31 punts with 3 TDs and multiple safeties. This success is not an accident. We believe that these results are directly connected to the detailed skill development approach that we use here at New Mexico Military Junior College.This clinic report will cover a few fundamental techniques used by players in our punt block unit. Those techniques include the Rush Technique, Catching Technique, Hold-Up Technique, and Blocking Technique(s). We will also examine our Base, Overload, and Hold Up schemes.
Punt Block Mission Statement
It is important to note that we work hard to combine multiplicity and simplicity to find an optimal balance for our freshman and sophomores to be able to execute at the highest level. Over time, we feel we have found a good balance in that regard and that should be obvious through this report.Here is the mission statement that we base this concept on:
“We will force mistakes and turnovers on this unit. It’s a race to the block point, don’t be last! We want our opponent to fear that if they don’t have a perfect snap, great protection, and a quick kick by the punter, then the result will be a blocked punt. Since 2012 we have blocked/disrupted 31 punts with 3 TD’s and multiple safeties.”
- Disrupt 1 kick per game
- Block a punt
- Force a poor punt
- Force a timeout
- Explosive return (>20 yards)
- We will place the best players who can block punts on this unit.
- We must have the Attitude, Desire, and Effort to get it done.
- Obtain and keep the football (100% possession)
- Field all catchable punts
- “Peter” calls from the returner to the rest of the unit when necessary.
- Obnoxiously Loud
- Visual Signals
- No Penalties
- Allow No Successful Fakes
- Average 10 yards per return
Punt Catch Technique
One of our main objectives on this unit is to be able to obtain possession of the ball 100% of the time. We never want to give the ball back to the punting team. For catching the punt, we have a number of coaching points for the returner. They are as follows:
- Key the football at the snap of the ball and do not take eyes off it, see the ball caught by punter, see the ball off the foot of the punter.
- We want to keep our weight on the balls of our feet and slightly bend the ankles and the knees.
- Sprint to get to the ball. Avoid catching the ball on the run. If the ball is kicked over the returner’s head we want to turn and run for it, avoid backpedaling.
- Upon catching the ball we want to give a little bit by bending our knees with the catch and have soft hands.
- We want to keep our elbows tight to our body and use hands, forearms, and chest to catch and secure the football. Form a basket.
- We teach our returners to keep their shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage when making the catch.
- Secure the ball immediately after the catch. Tuck the ball away and cover both points of the ball. If there is heavy traffic use two hands.
As mentioned earlier, in the event of us not being able to catch the ball it is extremely imperative that our returner give both a visual and verbal “Peter” call. In fact I want him screaming “Peter, Peter, Peter” obnoxiously loud at the top of his lungs and waving his arms from side to side. Here we want all players to get away from the ball, even if they have to run off the field! Below are examples of a peter call and a returner selling a catch although he knows it will go into the end zone. Note do not signal fair catch when doing this otherwise the coverage team doesn’t have to respect the catch and can go straight to the goal line.
Once the coverman releases from the line of scrimmage, our hold-up men must engage in the proper blocking technique. These blocking techniques typically take place after we have worked our hold up technique on the punt team; however the techniques can be used after a player has rushed a punt and has begun working downfield to help on the return. At the end of the hold-up technique, we ideally want to make that player release away from the return direction, but this isn’t always the case. Once the opponent has released, we tell our players to stay on the hip or shoulder of the man he was holding up and not block in the back.
If the opponent releases past us and we can no longer block him, we now want to be in a trail position and key the hip. Our guys are told to burn a hole in the hip of the opponent with their vision. The next phase is for our player to identify when the opponent is going to attempt to make a tackle or change direction. We tell him to see the hip and when the hip begins to lower and the opponent begins to shimmy or come to balance to make a tackle now we can do one of the following techniques: slide and block or the “oh crap” technique. We use a different word instead of crap, but for this article we will call it crap.
The slide and block technique is when we are able to engage in a block on the opponent. We can get to this point by using an arm bar, where we throw our arm across the chest of the opponent, propelling us in front of him, helping to flip our hips to a position where we are now facing him. Also we may be able to simply slide in front and engage in a block with our elbows tight and hands inside.
Schematically, we keep it simple on this unit. We do not teach the scheme until after we have taught all our techniques used on this team and evaluated enough to decide who best fits. In fall camp, I only teach three schemes; base, hold-up, and overload schemes. Everything we do during the season will be like one of these three base schemes. For naming sake, I use a number system to define who is who and where they align, this can be seen in Diagram 3.
- Numbers 1&10 are typically CB’s who can press and block down the field.
- Numbers 2&9 are typically guys who play from a 3-point stance and will rush the punt. These two need to have good acceleration because they are typically coming from a wider angle.
- Numbers 3&8 are very similar to 2&9 in that they need to have great acceleration when rushing the punt. However, unlike 2&9, I also look at who is good at hold-up. A lot of times defensive players are on this unit, but some of the best ones I’ve had have been WR’s because they are typically better at the hold-up technique.
- Numbers 4-7 are typically guys who have to be good at hold-up but also be able to rush a punt. I have found that RB’s and LB’s are good at these positions as are Safeties. At times, I have played speedy WR’s or CB’s at 4&7 because I think they can get around the shield and hit home. Numbers 5&6 are almost always RB’s or LB’s and in some cases a bigger safety or a fast twitch DL who can get there because we ask them to go through the shield.
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- The rush technique fundamentals that Coach Bisch uses to teach his punt block unit including video.
- The hold-up technique fundamentals that Coach Bisch uses to teach his punt block unit including video.
- The technique he teaches when blockers cannot get in front of defenders.
- The four components he uses when game planning for his punt block unit.
- Analysis and video of New Mexico Junior College’s overload and hold-up schemes in its punt block unit.
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As I mentioned earlier, this simple scheme has been extremely successful for us over the past 4 seasons. In 2012 and 2013, we averaged about 1 disrupted kick per game. Finding guys who are hungry and have the desire and attitude to relentlessly attack punts is the hard part, but once that is done you can let them take ownership. I would like to thank my head coach Joe Forchtner for allowing me to be so aggressive on this unit! Thank you for your time and thanks to X&O Labs for allowing me to share!
Meet Coach Bisch: Jamison Bisch has been at New Mexico Military Institute Junior College for four seasons, the last three being the defensive coordinator. During this time, NMMI has had three winning seasons and won the 2013 El Toro Bowl. That bowl win was NMMI’s first bowl victory since 1999. Most importantly we have sent 35 defensive players to D1 or D2 schools between 2012 and 2014. In the past we have competed in the Western States Football League, but for 2016 we are moving to the SWJCFC also known as the Texas League.