Today we are going to talk special teams play and specifically The Shield punt.  The Shield in my opinion is the most efficient way to protect your punts and cover your punts at the Junior High and High School level.  It gives you the ability to get 7 guys in coverage very quickly, and by alignment alone makes punts very difficult to go after.  Although most people will tell you they love it for the coverage aspect, I love it because of its simplicity in protection.  Because of this simplicity we can spend adequate time on protection and coverage and then have slight wrinkles to our alignment each week that keep opponents off balance when determining how to come after our punts.  In 5 years of using The Shield punt we have had 2 punts blocked and 1 returned for a touchdown.  We are talking 200 reps of punt, very efficient in my opinion.

The biggest key to Special Teams is field position and game changing plays.  The punt can change field position either way in a hurry, and a blocked punt can be absolutely demoralizing.  Let's look at some field position statistics and how they relate to points.  We are going to talk about TD'S only in this study because I feel it is a much more important metric in Junior High and High School ball because of the lack of effective kicking games.

GL to OWN 20-5% Chance of TD
OWN 20 to OWN40-15% Chance of TD
OWN 40 to OUR40-23% Chance TD
OUR 40 to OUR 20-35% Chance TD
OUR 20 to OUR GL-66% Chance of TD

This is basically a rough estimate taken off the last 3 years of our games played.  There are several different field position charts out there for College and NFL teams that are way more detailed than the one I am showing.  The simple point of the matter is even in High School football starting field position has a direct impact on the percentage of TD'S scored.  So if our punt protection and coverage can be solid then we can give our defense a better chance to be successful.  Now I want to look at some positive and negative game changers I will be looking at this up coming season with my punt team.  I am going to give these plays a point value to determine if we are winning or losing the Game Changing plays category with our Punt Team.
POSITIVE                                                 NEGATIVE
39 Yard Net(+1)                                          20 Yard Net(-1)
Inside the 10(+1)                                         Penalty(-1)
Successful Fake(+1)                                    Unsuccessful Fake(-1)
Turnover(+2)                                               Blocked Punt or Safety(-2)
TD(+3)                                                        TD Allowed(-3)

So after each game I am going to look at our punts and chart each one to determine if we are winning or losing the explosive play category in the punt game.

So let us now take a look at the actual operation of our punt team.  We will have 2 Yard splits between our guards and tackles and 3 yard splits between the tackle and TE.  The idea is to get everybody wider so they do not have a chance to get to the punt unless they choose to put 4 on the shield.  So now we need to look at our operation time and see if we can handle double a gap pressure and 4 on the shield.  The normal operating time for punts is .8 seconds from snapper to punter's hands.  It's 1.2 from punter's hands to his foot which makes your total operation time around 2.0 seconds.  We have found that if you can operate in 2.0 or less then 4 on the shield will almost never be an issue.  I say almost because you have to take into account bad snaps, mishandled snaps, and poor steps by the punter.  If we can operate in 2.0 or less we will man block both sides man which means we will account for the 3 widest rushers from outside in.  We will start our count from the outside every time.  With this scheme we get guys out and in good lanes relatively quickly.  We realize though that if they bring 10 with 2 in each A gap we have to be real sound with our operating time. We are only trying to redirect our man for 2 steps and then releasing.  We will drop step with our outside foot then run aggressively through the inside number of our man.  If he crosses our face we will release him to the shield and their alignment and angle will not allow them to block the punt. Our shield will have their heels at 7 yards and they are standing on a cliff and cannot get knocked backwards.  They will protect everything from their inside out trying not move from the shield.  The bigger the bodies the better because they will create a better pocket for the punter forcing rushers wider.  Bigger bodies will not cover as well though so its a trade off.  If you use smaller bodies you may want your shield in more of a man concept.  The first adjustment we will make if we have trouble with 4 on the shield is blocking zone on the backside protecting our inside gap first.  Our splits will be cut in half from normal distance and we will have our inside foot back.  The guard has the A Gap, Tackle has the B Gap, and the Tight End has the C Gap.  This will be more of an aggressive style trying to stone our defender and stop his inside movement.  This will only allow them to get 3 on the shield and sometimes when you have a good physical guard on the zone side he will take care of both players in the A Gap by knocking one into the other. Again your operation time needs to be real good because you are unchaining the widest defender to the zone side.  With good splits and proper timing he will never get to your punter. If your punter is good with directional kicks you can choose which side to zone, while always punting towards the man side who releases outside.

When All Else Fails

One new thing I will try this year is the use of the Rugby Punt.  This changes the launch point of the punter which keeps your opponent guessing with which type of block they want to use.  If they want to put 4 on the shield with double A Gap players the Rugby Punt will not only be safe but it will get them out leveraged real quick and give your punter a chance to run for a first down.  Because you are punting from the same alignment your opponent cannot tell which punt is coming.  When we Rugby Punt we will roll to the side of the Punter's Leg and that side of the protection will be responsible for the inside 3 rushers or number 3, 4 and 5.  It is similar to the zone protection and we will keep our inside foot back.  We need to redirect that rusher for 2 Yards inside before we release.  The Right Shield and Personal Protector are now responsible for #1 and #2 coming off the edge.  The left side of will be using their zone technique protecting their inside gap first.  The left shield will protect left side A Gap first to outside pressure second.  Remember we are rolling away from him so inside is a priority.  

Add to this your ability to wrinkle formations while still using shield principles, and carrying a couple fakes and you have a multiple yet simplistic punt scheme.  You will keep the heat off with your diversity and The Shield will help you get more guys in coverage almost immediately.  Remember special teams are 1/3 of the game so don't neglect them.

Be Who You Are, Protect Who You Are


One of the biggest problems in coaching today is that there is more information than ever before.  With the internet and social media a coach can get his eyes and hands on almost any piece of football knowledge he craves.  All you have to do is go to you tube and search "inside Zone", or "zone blitzes", or "3-4 Defense" and a world of knowledge is at your fingertips.  While I love to study the game of football and it's constant evolution, this information can set you back more than it can actually help.  You can get flooded with information and lose sight on the techniques and fundamentals that your Offense and Defense need to succeed.  Remember every scheme needs to hang its hat on something.

We have all used the term Bread and Butter before.  It is your go to move.  For Mariano Rivera it was the cutter, for Drew Brees and the Saints its the spacing game.  Joe Gibbs had his 1 Back Counter Trey and Stone Cold Steve Austin has "The Stunner".  When in doubt this is what you do.  The same is true for running an offense or defense.  You have to know exactly who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.  There are so many great ways to move the football on offense, just like there are so many ways to stop people on defense.  But in an attempt to do them all you just water down your system and end up ineffective.  The offseason is a great time for Football Coaches,  you have clinics and webinars and college visits.  There is a wealth of information out there just waiting for you to explore.  The problem is if you explore it with the idea of using it all, you will end up hurting your production more than helping it.

So what is the point of all this?  It's simple, figure out who you are on offense and defense and do things to protect your scheme.  Now keep in mind that doesn't mean running brand new schemes, just wrinkling your own schemes to keep teams off balance.  I'll give you an example of this.  I use an Up Tempo offense that never ever snaps the ball on 2.  We snap the ball on 1 or first sound all the time.  Now you may ask why in the world would you do that?  Well its simple, of the times we snapped the ball on 2 we went offside 25% of the time and the defense only jumped 10% of the time.  So i thought to myself why snap the ball on 2 if there is a greater chance of a penalty on my offense?  With that being said I also need something to slow down the defensive line and their get off.  So what i do is I use freeze tempo as a way for the offense to "Check With Me" and I try to screen and draw real early in the game.  This way i never snap the ball on 2 but i also protect my offensive line. I live in an up tempo world.  That is how I like to play offense.  So I need to know my limitations and where I should invest most of my time to be effective.  We are going to work a ton on Pre and Post Snap reads for the QB and his decision making process.  All of our answers need to be built into the play if we truly want to be up tempo.  That means I can't spend a ton of time on shifts and motions to out leverage the defense.  I also cant try and run Power, Counter, Toss, Trap, Dart, Belly, ISO, Zone, Stretch, and Scissors.  To truly be a Tempo team you will cut down your playbook, formations, motions, trades and shifts but you will protect yourself by varying the tempo and building multiple options into each play call.

The same can be said for defense.  It really does not matter if you are 4-2-5, 3-4, 3-3-5 or "46" just play the scheme that you know best, that fits your personnel, and that you can fix.  But with that being said be able to protect the things you do with other things.  The easiest example of this is watching even front teams use an odd front on passing downs or Vice Versa.  These teams do not magically morph into the other system, they just use the fronts as a protection to their Base Defense.  It adds to the preparation of the offense during the week and makes them a little less effective VS. the base front.  You see the same thing with Single High Defenses having some sort of 2 High coverage structure in their defensive package.  Offenses are going to prepare to beat all the 1 High looks so having a 2 High look protects your 1 High package.  With that said you probably will not be a great 2 High coverage team so use it only as a changeup.  If you are a pressure team then by all means pressure.  But figure out if you are a zone pressure team or a man pressure team and live in that world.  Which ever it is get really, really good at it then use the other as a changeup for protection purposes.  

At the end of the day figure out who you are and get really good at the things you do.  Your kids will respond better and you will understand how to prioritize your time better to be more effective.