Getting the most in returns.
Probably no single play in football is as dangerous as the kickoff return. At Galena High School, we have been proving it rather conclusively over the past several years.
In 1993 and '94, our three deep return men led the league (finishing 1-2-3) in total yardage, average yardage per return, and return touchdowns. They also made a practice of giving their offense the gift of outstanding field position on practically every return.
Our offense could usually start operating from around its own 45-yard line. As you might surmise, our kickoff return package was feared throughout the conference.
Diag. 1 illustrates the 5-2-1-3 alignment we used on kickoff returns. Our traditional five-man front (guards, tackles, and center) set up between the 45 and 50. Our next two players (who had the hands and build of tight ends) set up on the 30 just outside the hashmarks.
Of course, slight adjustments could be made whenever indicated by the scouting report.
Our report package consisted of three normal calls: Return Right, Return Left, and Return Middle. To add a little extra misdirection we also had a naked QB bootleg, which we usually saved until the end of the season.
Probably the most distinctive aspect of our kickoff return was a triple reverse action off the posting QB. On every return, the QB had to sprint back and set up an exchange point according to the depth of the kick. Our three return men (left half, right half, and fullback) then had to drive over him on every play.
The order was as follows: The back receiving the kick-off came first. If, say, the ball was kicked to the LH, he would drive over the QB first, the FB would drive over second, and the RH would drive over third.
If the ball was kicked to the RH, the order would be RH, FB, and LH.
If the ball was kicked to the FB, the order would be FB, LH, and RH.
On Return Right with, say, the FB receiving the kick, the return would be as shown in Diag. 2: The FB would drive over the QB and hand him the ball, then carry out a great fake and look to block for the QB.
Since Return Right calls for the LH to carry the ball, he would take the ball from the QB and start sprinting toward the wall immediately.
The RH would then drive over the QB and also carry out a great fake and get tackled - or, if not tackled, look for someone to block.
The QB's last move (after handing off to the LH and faking to the RH) is to bootleg to the side opposite the ball, faking as if he had the ball.
The LTE (Left Tight End) becomes the QB's personal protector (on a Return Right). He must make sure no one gets to the QB.
The RTE (Right Tight End) takes charge of setting up the wall for the return. He turns inside, just outside of the hashmark.
The linemen then fill in the wall:
The Center becomes the fourth part of the wall. He sprints to a point three yards off the RG, then turns to face inside.
The RG becomes the third part of the wall, as he turns and sets up three yards off the RT.
The RT becomes the second part of the wall, turning inside and setting up alongside the RTE three yards away.
The LG is responsible for kicking out the contain man on the return side of the field, and the LT fills out the final part of the wall.
Return Left (Diag. 3) has basically the same assignments, except that the wall is set up on the left side of the LTE, while the RTE protects the QB and the RH takes charge of kicking out the contain man on the left side.
The RH now returns the football (up the left side).
Return Middle (Diag. 4) employs a basic wedge blocking scheme, with the fullback receiving the ball.
Whenever the defense starts keying to the side on which the wall is being formed, we can always call Wall Right, Return Left or Wall Left, Return Right.
Note: It's always wise to scout the opposing kicker to give your QB some idea of how deep he will have to drop to set up the exchange point. Timing is of the essence. No one should have to wait his turn to fake. The three return men and the QB should practice the posting move every day.
The halfback should, on the hand off to the QB, make sure to hold on to the ball until he is at least even with the QB to avoid a possible forward lateral call.
Note on signals: After an opposing team's touchdown or just before the game begins, our special-team coordinator calls the return on the sideline just before our return team takes the field.
Even though the opponents know which back is going where, they never know who is going to wind up with the football. Kick-off teams also have a tendency to commit to the middle, which is why the outside returns work so well.
An integrated package like this will give you more versatility without requiring more practice time. With 1012 minutes of practice every day, you can increase your average starting field position by 15 to 20 yards.
That should put a smile on the face of every special-team coach!
Jason Mooney Special Team Coordinator Galena (KS) High School
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|Title Annotation:||kickoff returns in football|
|Publication:||Coach and Athletic Director|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1996|
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