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Attack with your kick-off return!

Get off to a great start

Football coaches are always looking for big plays and big hits that can break a game wide open or begin turning it around. At Hamilton City, we do it with out "Attack" kickoff return.

It goes with our philosophy of football: to get off to a great start. When properly executed, the "Attack" kick-off return can create spectacular hits, big yardage, maybe even a TD, on the opening play of the game or second half - exhilarating our players and demoralizing the opponents.

In order to grasp the concept of the "Attack," it is important to look at the traditional wedge return - which creates a wall of players for the ball-carrier.

In an article in Scholastic Coach several years ago, a coach gave several good examples of wall concepts for both sideline and middle returns.

The concepts were quite valid and quite effective, but had one drawback, I believe. The traditional scheme had the front linemen retreating 15 to 20 yards on the kickoff to set up the wedge - but also give the oncoming tacklers (on the kick-off team) a lot of field and time to gain enough momentum to level the blockers (just starting to move forward) and nail the return man inside the 25-yard line.

The "Attack" kick-off return does just the opposite. It enables the players to hit the opponents first, often with fantastic blind-side hits, that can catch them completely off-guard. It does not allow the kick-off team to get down the field and it provides the ball-carrier with a whole lot of open space in which to run.

The Set-Up

Allow us to describe the "Attack" system to you, starting at the very beginning. Unlike many coaches, I do not use my special teams to give my non-starters a little playing time or to give my starters a rest period.

I use my hardest hitters and best athletes on special teams. They set up for the "Attack" in the basic 5-4-2 alignment shown in Diag. 1.

The front five (A, B, C, D, E) are the best players on the field, my hardest hitters, who are very agile and have above-average peripheral vision.

My second best four (F, G, H, I) are very good open-field blockers (the hardest job of all); and my two back players are the scat backs (ball-carriers).

Numbering System

Our players have to know whom to block. Each is made responsible for one specific opponent. To do this, we use the numbering system shown at the top of Diag. 1. We number the players 1 to 5 on both sides of the kicker to cut down on the confusion on whom to hit.

As shown in Diag. 2, the middle man (C) in the front row is responsible for the No. 1 player on the left side of the kicker. Our next two players (D and E) block Nos. 2 and 3 to the left side of the kicker.

On the left side of the field, B and A block Nos. 1 and 2 to the right of the kicker.

In the second row, H and I block the Nos. 4 and 5 men to the left side of the kicker, and F and G block 3 and 4 to the right of the kicker.

That leaves only the kicker and No. 5 to the right side of the kicker, unblocked.

The scat back who does not get the ball becomes a lead blocker and picks up any tacklers that may filter through.

Another variation of this is to have F, G, H & I cross and pick up the opposite side (Diag. 3), which may be used to confuse the opponent and create more blind-side hits.

The Technique

What makes this return scheme so effective is the use of the blind-side hit by the front five, who must act as though they are going to retreat by running down the field very slowly for about five to six yards. They actually turn their backs to the kicking team, but, at the same time, they are using their peripheral vision to watch their specific man.

The kicking team is usually focusing on the ball and getting down the field in their lanes; they pay little attention to the front line. Then, wham! the unexpected happens. As the kicking team gets about two feet from the front line and thinks they are going to blow right by them, the front five suddenly turn and unleash fantastic hits (Diag. 4)!

At Hamilton High, we typically put anywhere from three to five defenders on the ground, wondering what hit them. When they try to get up, we keep knocking them back down.

While this is happening, and as soon as the ball is kicked, the second row attacks their specific men (Diag. 4). The second row, unless they are cross-blocking to the opposite side, stock-block (mirror) their men, not necessarily trying to knock them down. They simply stay low and watch the opponent's waist to avoid being deceived.

The ball-carrier, now gaining momentum to run because all of the defenders are still up the field, just picks the holes he wants to run through.

The key for the front nine blockers is to stay with their men no matter what. Even if one of the front five misses his block, they still hustle down the field after their men and catch them as the ball-carrier cuts back. We make sure to explain the clipping penalty. A good return should not be spoiled by a clipping call.

The hardest instructional part of this scheme is teaching the proper technique to the front five. We try to spend at least five minutes every day on this return scheme (after the initial introduction). Like any aspect of football, if you spend the time, you will eventually reap the rewards.

Summary, the objective of this return scheme is to give your ball-carrier more room to run other than just behind the wedge. By attacking the kicking team and not allowing them to gain momentum down the field, we give the ball-carrier this opportunity.

Not only can the "Attack" gain considerable yardage. It motivates people and gets everyone excited over the big hits and big plays. Try it and see for yourself!
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Title Annotation:football
Author:Cooley, Mark
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Words:1047
Previous Article:Winning by the numbers.
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