Importance of Kick Off ReturnDeveloping and repping a solid kick off return team can be an explosive offensive weapon for your football team. With the kick off team, you are generally looking to avoid, negative momentum. However, with the kick off return team, you can gain a huge momentum swing with a great return. At the very least, you want to give your offense the ball outside of the -30 yardline.
The kickoff return team is important, because you can give your offense the ball in good field position, and could possibly even score a TD.
Why do we do what we do?We like to make the other team spend as much time as possible when preparing for our special teams. If we are able to execute the KO return well, then we should be able to force them into making a kick that they do not usually practice. If they are making a kick they don’t spend much time on, then we feel we will be able to take advantage. We also like to have some schematic and skill based carry over from our offense and defense. We are a Wing T team. Therefore, we use blocking angles in our return schemes to create an advantage for our smaller athletes.
GoalsWe want our offense to take the ball anywhere outside the -40 yard line. We do not want to fumble. We’re trying to give our team solid momentum, because, unless you are taking the ball to start a game or half, something bad has just happened. Therefore we want to give our team a little pick up and swing things in our favor.
Formations and PersonnelOur base kick off return formation has four players aligned on the 50 yardline, the guards are 2-3 yards inside the hashes, and the tackles are on the tops of the numbers about 9-10 yards from the sideline. The two ends are aligned on or 2 yds outside the hashes on the -43 to -44 yardline. The 2 up backs are on the -33-34 yardline just inside the tackles. The Center or wedge captain is on the 25 yard line in the middle of the field, while the two deep men are 3-5 yards inside the hashes on the 10-15 yard line. The alignment or everyone, but the front six can be adjusted based on scouting. It should look something like the diagram below.
In terms of personnel, I feel that this is one place where you can fit some of your "program" type guys. Program kids are those kids who have busted their tails for your school but may not be ready for a full time position on offense or defense. In the Guard position, you can put your TE or FB type kid who likes to hit people. This year one is filled by a TE and the other by a Halfback. The Tackle needs to be someone who can move a little bit, because the scheme requires him to cross the field, so we look for our tough WR types. This year, one is our best cracking WR, an the other is a back up DE. The up backs are pretty crucial to your scheme, b/c the more athletic they are, the more things you can do with them. We look for sure handed guys in this position that can get in the wedge a block. These might be your FBs or your TE’s. This year, we have a back up FB and a back up HB. The C or Wedge Captain must be someone who is willing to sell their body to make a block, they also have to be smart enough to set the wedge in front of the ball and alert the other members of the wedge when to go. This year it is our tough as nails TE/NG. in my opinion, the two deep guys need to be your two best runners on the team, Ideally they would both be your playmakers, but if you have only one, then put him here. I feel like you can hide the stud returner by stacking them during the pre kick, then once the kicker goes into his steps, they can align as normal.
The SchemeWe only use one blocking scheme for our kick off return. The rules are very simple, and easy to follow. We use a scheme that crosses the front 6 men, and makes a wedge with the back 4 in front of the return man. The illustration is below.
We use this return for two reasons. 1 it allows you to create blocking angles in the return game. We aren’t asking a kid to simply "drop back and hit someone." We’re giving him a specific job, and man to block. 2. it works. This year our avg starting field position of Kick off Returns has been around the -40 yardline. The shortened field puts your offense at a tremendous advantage.
Misdirection?Since we only use one return scheme, we don’t use any reverses or laterals. We try to keep things pretty simple for the kids. The only adjustments we really make is for when teams start kicking the ball short. When teams do this, we switch our two deep guys and the upbacks.
Drills for SuccessWe use a few drills that help us on Kick Off Return. 1. Live Team. 2. Team v. Air, and 3. Individual skills.
The first two drills are fairly self explanatory, but during the individual drills, we divide the return team into three groups. The first group consists of the front six. They will do the Drop and Block Drill as described below. The upbacks and the wedge captain will work on dropping and forming a wedge in front of the returners. The key coaching point is to st the wedge 7-10 yds in front of the ball and lead the returner to the middle of the field. The two returners will work together field kicks and communicating who will catch the ball. We always put one returner in charge of saying "Me, me, me" or "You, you, you". This call will determine who is catching the ball. We will also line the front 6 in their positions, and, with a KO team, have them drop into position to block the cover man. The key coaching point for the front 6 is that you do have to kill your man to make the block. We tell our front guys to "put your hand on his hip" and run him past the play. Use his momentum against him and work him outside.
Drop and Block Drill
- To teach proper drop and blocking techniques on kick off return.
- To be able to identify and execute blocking assignment on the run
- To be able to adjust blocking angles at the last moment
- 4 Cones for landmarks, 5 bags large enough to be blocked.
Align the front line and ends with proper spacing for KO return. On coach’s signal, the designated player will execute a drop to the spot in the middle of the field. The player will arrive at the drop point, and gather his feet. As he does this, the coach will call out a number as given for one of the five bags set up in an arc around the drop spot. Once the command is given, the player will execute an open field block on the designated bag. The player will drive the bag 5 yds with proper form and head placement. He will then take the bag and set it up where it was. Variations: The blocking assignment can be given with either a voice command of hand signal. This drill could also be used to work communication on double teams. If using live personnel, you could also have the arc drop with the blocker. This drill can also be done with or without the Ends.
- Players should turn and sprint to drop point, but head should be on a swivel looking up field to oncoming KO team.
- Yell out blocking assignment just as or just after player gathers feet in center of the arc.
- When executing the block on the pad, check head placement as if the return is a middle return.
- Make sure the players gather feet just before making contact with the bag. Have players drive bag 5 yds when executing the block.
Eliminating MistakesWe have been very successful with our KO return over the past two years, and because of this, people have stopped kicking deep to us. We have dealt with this several ways. One thing that people like to do is to kick a high popover kick to our up backs. There are two ways that we have dealt with this. First, we simply practice our upbacks making fair catches and fielding ground balls. They know that the ball could be coming to them at any time. The second thing that we do is to switch our deep returners with our upbacks. This gives you the ability to put your best athletes in a position to get their hands on the ball, and it also gives you the chance to run your normal return.
When we practice KO return during the week, we will kick the ball anywhere on the field. Our front 6 understand that the ball may be kicked to them. This is another reason that we try to fill the front six with 2nd and 3rd string WRs, DBs, or RBs. They typically have good hands and will practice this everyday in their position drills, so it is not something that we have to spend a lot of time on during our special team time.