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How effective would your offense be if you had an extra down? What's the general team morale when you send in the punt team? Would you like to take control of the ball and dictate game momentum?

The Rugby Punt is the type of game changer that can address some of these questions. I know many coaches are hesitant to install the rugby punt for a number of reasons including: It's too risky, loss of hangtime/accuracy, too much practice, lack of rugby style punter, and it's just a gimmick or trick play.

As with any scheme, these points can be debated. Let's review the common arguments against the rugby punt.
 
Is the Rugby Punt right for your system?

IT'S TOO RISKY

Sure, conventional wisdom tells you that the punt is way less likely to get blocked when the punter is deeper, in a pocket, and gets the ball off quickly. However, the rugby punt is still a safe kick. Consider how many punt block units are coached. Many teams run a consistent block scheme designed to attack a static punter in a traditional punt formation. These schemes account for the punter kicking the ball from a specific landmark and focus on a block point typically 9-10 yards from the line of scrimmage. The rugby punt changes this block point and therefore changes the punt block. If the punt occurs from outside the tackle as opposed to behind the center the block scheme must also adjust to attack this. How many coaches are willing to spend valuable time planning, installing, and practicing a new punt block scheme?

Many rugby punt formations force you to account for a number of eligible receivers. The rugby formation I'll address in later articles allows for 5 legit receiving threats in a 3 x 2 formation. The defense must account for these players in coverage. Assuming man coverage and 1 returner 6 of the defenders are now locked into a responsibility and unable to rush. This allows the defense to only safely rush 5 defenders. Skeptics will say, "But sure, any punt scheme aligns with eligible receivers!" That is true. But once again, given the punt formation and moving punter many opposing coaches will simply choose to play a sound base defense behind 1 or 2 heavy rushers off the edge.Along with the block risk is the fear of allowing a 16 year old make an on the fly decision as to whether or not the 4th down punt call should be a run, pass, or kick. Many coaches are not comfortable with their punter deciding to pull the ball and try to run for the first down. This makes sense. But kids make decisions on the field all the time. If you coach your kids up and teach them the decision making process you want the rugby punt is no more risky than the triple option or forward pass.So is there risk associated with the rugby punt? Sure there is. You can get a punt blocked, just like in a traditional punt. You can attempt a fake and not make it, just like in a traditional punt. You can have a kid make a poor decision, just like in a traditional punt. I'll opt to accept the risks associated with the rugby punt in exchange for the rewards of an extra first down and momentum shift that you will not get within a traditional punting scheme.

YOU LOSE HANGTIME AND/OR ACCURACY

Yes, but...You are likely to lose some hangtime on your punt. But what's the purpose of hangtime? Don't we like hangtime because it allows our coverage unit to close in on the returner? If that's your purpose for hangtime then keep in mind that the rugby punt already adjusts the timing of the return and buys time for the coverage team by delaying the punt during the roll phase.It's also true that it is harder to accurately aim your rugby punt when compared to a traditional punt. But, remember, the punt is also hard to field and difficult to time up for the return team. I've seen enough shanks by traditional punt teams during crucial situations to make me comfortable with the accuracy of rugby punting.

TOO MUCH PRACTICE TIME

This depends. I'll argue that because of the trajectory and angle of the kick the coverage phase of the punt takes less time to practice than other traditional units. Teams that use traditional punt schemes must account for a longer hang time and more field to cover. Rugby teams often kick difficult to field balls that don't hang as long. Because the kick is often hard to field and near the sideline, it becomes difficult for the return team to time up a successful return.  The timing of the kick varies as well because of the punter's roll phase. This allows gunners to get downfield quickly and compensate for the lower hangtime. Because of the timing of the kick, difficulty fielding the kick, and use of the sideline as an extra defender the coverage phase of the punt isn't as crucial as it is in a traditional punt scheme.On the other hand, protection and fakes could potentially lead to more practice time. It is all going to depend on the scheme and how it fits your program. Many Wing-T teams have taken the blocking principles from buck or jet sweep and applied them to their rugby punt. This eliminates the need for a lot of new teaching. Other systems use zone concepts that already apply to their offensive structure. If you find something that fits what you are already doing then the protection phase of the punt doesn't have to take any more practice time than the traditional punt.

I DON'T HAVE A KID WHO CAN PUNT LIKE THAT

If you believe in the option would you go to the spread just because you don't have a prototypical option QB? Doubtful. You'd probably find a few kids to develop and coach 'em up.
What if you can't find a kid on your team who can catch the ball and consistently kick it 50+ yards without shanking it? Do you scrap the traditional punting game? No, you work with the best kid you have to help him get better.
Same with the rugby punt. Coach the kids up and you'll find someone. Remember, the timing of the punt is different because the punter rolls to his kick. This changes the whole return scheme. You don't need to kick it 50 yards downfield.
 

IT'S A GIMMICK PLAY

According to the following definition...maybe it is:

But why is this bad? Because it's different? The Spread used to be a gimmick. The option has been called a gimmick. Hell, the forward pass was once a gimmick. The scheme is sound and if you develop it to fit your needs I don't see how it's anymore of a gimmick than anything else in the game.

BENEFITS OF THE RUGBY PUNT

Here is a recap of the benefits of running the rugby punt:
  • Punt team is no longer boring and kids get excited about being on a momentum changing team.
  • Stresses the defense. Traditional punt teams snap and pray there isn't a block or big return. Rugby teams put the pressure on the return team.
  • It forces the opponent to get out of their comfort zone and prepare for something different.
  • Provides an opportunity for a fake punt every time.
  • Giving up a big punt return is a huge momentum loss. You can cut down on the amount of space available for the return team by punting and covering into the boundary.
  • If you no huddle the punt you can add more stress to the defense and call out a specific fake if the defense is misaligned.

 

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