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Strategizing the punt formation.

Punting is too often viewed as simply kicking the football on fourth down. Coaches concern themselves with protecting the punter to avoid having the kick blocked. Much practice time is spent developing a solid deep snapper, a punter who is consistent with his steps and ball drop, and blocking eight, nine, and ten-man rushes.

In a nutshell, punting becomes a defensive tactic. However, this phase of special teams can be considered an offensive strategy as well as the opportunity to reverse the field in your favor. It is possible to dictate to the receiving team how many people they can rush, and to hamper an opponent's ability to set a formal return.

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Formation: Spread (Primary call, Roger)

Alignment: Line splits are two feet; split ends go to the top of the numbers; halfbacks split the distance between the tackle and split end; fullback sets behind the right tackle five yards behind the LOS; punter is ten yards deep.

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Blocking rules: Interior five will "reach." The center has no blocking responsibility; his primary responsibility it to make a good snap.

If the center is covered, the left guard will wrap around the center at the snap and be responsible for whichever gap the nose guard may choose to rush through. The left guard must make a "gap" call to the left tackle if the center and left guard are both covered.

The right tackle should give a "mayday" call to the fullback if he has more than one rusher lined up to his outside.

The fullback is responsible for the first rusher outside the right tackle's block. He should be aggressive and attack the rusher at the LOS and not allow him to beat his block to the inside.

Ends & Halfbacks: Right end and halfback should sprint downfield at the snap and act as "gunners." They have to try to get "in the face" of the deep back who is attempting to field and return the punt.

The left end and halfback should sprint diagonally across the field and act as "wall gunners" to force the punt returner to our right side. They must also look for any punt that is misdirected towards the middle of the field.

Punter: On receiving the snap, he should sprint to the right outside of the fullback's block. If he does not receive pressure from the defense, he can opt to run for the first down (distance logic is a priority). If there is pressure, he should punt toward our right. This requires practicing "punting on the run."

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Return teams will often overload our right side in an attempt to take away our run threat or block the punt by outnumbering the blockers to the right side.

When the punter sees a definite overload to our right or sees the returner beginning to favor the right half of the field, he can make a "Lucky" call. He will step toward the line, and yell "Lucky!" and give a hand signal to the wideouts.

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This alerts our left wideouts to sprint straight down the field and our right wideouts to sprint diagonally across the field to the left.

The lineman now know the blocking rules are "reach left." Upon receiving the snap, the punter punts immediately.

Many teams tend to view this punt formation as strictly righthanded. They begin to rush hard from our left side in an effort to overtake the punter before he can punt the football or to tuck and run for the first down. The receiving team will, therefore, bring their end hard off our left edge.

We have to have an answer for such teams, one that will prevent them from such a hard rush. We have two responses vs this type of rush.

First, we believe that the receiving team cannot rush hard from our left without balancing the rush alignment of their six rushers. Secondly, even if they do balance the six rushers, we believe they are vulnerable to three fakes, which are described below.

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"LARRY": The four wideouts sprint downfield as usual, thus drawing four defenders away from our fake.

Our left guard and tackle block, using an "on-inside" rule.

The right guard and tackle block base.

The center does not have any responsibility except to make a good snap.

Upon receiving the snap, the punter should run towards the outside of the rushing end as our fullback sprints across towards the left "B" gap. The punter must draw the rushing end toward him and them make a shovel pass to the fullback.

"LUCY": Our second fake in this situation involves our left tackle. (Who is wearing the number of an eligible receiver.) Many teams will not account for this due to the fact our left wideout covers him.

With a "Lucy" call, our left wideout will step off the line and our right slot back will step onto the LOS. On the snap our linemen will pass protect as will our fullback.

The four wide outs will sprint down the field as usual. The left tackle will allow the rushing end to go and then slide to the outside, giving the punter a window in which to pass the ball to him. Upon receiving the snap, the punter should not hesitate, but just get a grip on the ball and throw the pass.

"LESTER": Our third fake is a run to the left. The wideouts can be lined up like the normal "Roger" punt formation or as though you are going to run "Lucy." We like to mix our alignments so that the receiving team cannot get a good read on whether we are punting or running some sort of fake. We believe this helps to reduce the rush on our punter.

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With this fake we want our wideouts to run off the defenders who are covering them. Our tackles and guards block base, and we ask our center to try to seal the backside linebacker after the snap.

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Our fullback will "cheat" slightly to the left in his alignment, and then, on the snap, lead inside the left tackles block and look for the linebacker to that side.

The punter will take the snap and follow the fullback through the "B" gap.

2003 Punting Statistics: It was our first season to use this punt formation along with its fakes and adjustments. During our 14-game season, we punted a total of 35 times with an average of 37.5 yards per kick. We had only 9 punts fielded by our opponents for a total of 26 return yards and no touch-down returns. The longest return of a punt was five yards.

By Mike Moore, Special Teams Coordinator MacArthur High School, Lawton, OK
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Title Annotation:FOOTBALL
Author:Moore, Mike
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:1129
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