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The long snap from center: a neglected specialty.

Good football teams field outstanding specialty teams. They spend valuable practice time day in and day out, developing the same consistency of performance as their offensive and defensive units.

In the battle for field position, the single most important special team is the punt cover unit. A great punter can be an invaluable asset, of course, but not even the best punter in the nation can do his thing if he cannot get the ball away.

It all starts with the snap from center. Once you have trained a few good long-snap centers, you will be able to rest much easier on the sidelines.

First, you have to decide who is going to snap the ball in these critical situations. There are several attributes, both mental and physical, to look for. You want a player from the interior seven. A player who is not accustomed to lining up in the trenches is not going to be too fond of lining up over the ball with a band of hostile defenders staring down at him.

Your center must be a selfless player who wants to contribute to the team's success and is willing to accept the many extra hours of practice involved.

Physically, you want a player with some size, who is long waisted and has large hands and long arms. A good set of hands is important in terms of gripping the ball securely enough to control its flight. The fuller range of motion which longer arms afford will allow for more velocity.

Finally, look for an athlete. A player who cannot throw a football while standing upright is not going to have much success propelling it through his legs from an upside down position.

Spring practice is probably the best time to initiate drills with the centers. It's a good idea to start with a large group, say four from each class. After the spring, you can pare the group down to two per class. In this way, you will always have a long snapper for each level of competition in your program; i.e., Freshmen, Junior Varsity and Varsity.

PRE-PRACTICE

The 15-minute period before the start of practice, is the best time for your long snappers to drill on the mechanics of the snap and get their repetitions in for the day.

Remember, however, there is no teacher like game experience, or the time you devote to your punt cover unit during the week. During your team sessions, be sure to rotate your top candidates in and out. Competition is healthy whether you are in an individual drill or team situation.

THE MECHANICS

The mechanics of the long snap can be broken down into three component parts: base, grip, and delivery. Your terminology should be consistent, enabling you to use verbal prompts in your corrections.

In the initial phases of instruction, both demonstration and physical prompts will be necessary.

Base [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTOS 1 AND 2 OMITTED]. The center should assume a base slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. The toes should be placed approximately 12 inches from the nearest tip of the football and should be pointed forward or slightly outward.

As the center sets his feet, he should bend his knees and transfer his weight onto his heels. We tell him to grind his heels into the dirt as he sets his base.

Weight distribution and proper knee bend are the two most important aspects of the base. The center must place his weight back toward the punter and bend his knees so that his butt comes at least parallel to the ground (never points upward).

Coaching point: Any time the center falls forward after the snap, his weight had not been set back. If he snaps the ball too high, he had probably not bent his knees enough.

Grip [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 3 OMITTED]. Once the center has established his base, he can grip the ball. Note: He should never pick it up from the ground to establish the grip. He is allowed (by the rules) one adjustment of the ball.

The center should, additionally, make sure to set his base completely before reaching for the ball. If he attempts to reach for the ball as he sets his base, he will probably fail to get his weight on his heels.

In reaching for the ball, the center must maintain the posture he established in his base. The hand, wrist and arm gripping the ball should be fully extended from the body, with very little bend in the elbow.

A full extension of the arm is needed to ensure proper velocity and control of the snap.

The actual grip on the ball is established in the same way a quarterback grips the ball. The index finger is placed at the top of the laces, the thumb wraps around the ball, and the other three fingers rest along the laces.

With the grip hand secured on the ball, the center's wrist is now cocked or rolled up toward the forearm, forming a "cup" for the ball. If the cup is correctly formed, the back seam of the ball will be directly on line with the center's nose.

Lastly, the middle finger of the guide hand is placed right along this back seam. A good cup assures a tight spiral that will result in better velocity.

The center is now ready to snap the football. He must duck his head and look back to the punter without letting his chest and shoulders drop from their parallel position.

Delivery [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTOS 4 AND 5 OMITTED]. Concentration is now the key. It cannot be stressed enough. As the center looks back through his legs, he must focus on the punter's belt and snap the ball directly through it.

There are probably as many target areas as there are coaches. For example, I have heard of aiming at the hands of the punter, the thigh pad of the kicking leg, the knees, etc., but all of these target areas will not really help the center establish direct trajectory for the flight of the football.

Moreover, all of these areas are slightly off center, and lead to unnecessary variables in the mechanics of the delivery.

The key is to have the punter bend slightly at the knees. This will accomplish two things: First, it will bring the punter's belt directly on line with the center's butt. Second, it will help the punter move laterally on a less than accurate snap.

The actual motion snap involves a powerful arm swing in one continuous motion, with the elbow swinging directly back through the crotch of the center.

As the ball comes through the center's legs, he should skip back toward the punter about six inches. This will further add to the velocity of the snap, but the center must be coached to maintain the bend in his knee (keeping his butt down) in order to avoid a high snap.

Finally, as the center releases the ball, he should turn his palms away from each other. The index fingers release the ball and finish directly on line with the center's belt.
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Title Annotation:Football
Author:Catapano, Tony
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Oct 1, 1998
Words:1187
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