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.