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kickoffcoverageBy Sam Nichols, Managing Editor, X&O Labs

ULM is fifth in FBS in Kickoff Returns this season.  See the circuits they use to teach Special Teams Play.


By Sam Nichols

Managing Editor

X&O Labs


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The University of Louisiana Monroe was one of the top kickoff coverage teams in the Sun Belt Conference last season and they use a concise, 3 station circuit to perfect the skills they use on their coverage unit.  They run all potential kickoff players through this 10 minute rotation with each drill lasting only 3 minutes.  Each of these drills are shown below.  They also run a faster, “Kickoff Vital Technique drill” that puts all three of these concepts together into one drill.  ULM’s special teams coordinator, Travis Niekamp, provides his narration of the drills below.

Drill #1:  Avoid

This drill is very basic, but the skill is essential to being able to negate the front line of the return team’s scheme.  The speed rip is not a natural motion, so this drill is used to introduce the concept and can be expanded on as players develop mastery.

Concept / Coaching Points:  “This drill is used only with 1st Level Blockers (Frontline) in order to set up the blocker with a wiggle, slip by him and replace back to your lane.  The “speed rip” variation of avoid includes squeeze your elbow, reduce your hip and rip thru blocker.  Players cannot reduce stride length and must be encouraged to keep your speed.”- Niekamp



To see video of ULM’s Avoid Drill, click on the link below:

Drill #2:  Butt

The Butt Drill is the next step in the progression from the Avoid Drill and focuses on defeating 2nd level blocks.  The focus of the drill needs to be on creating and then shedding contact.

Concept / Coaching Points:  U LM uses the Butt and Press technique against 2nd Level Blockers (Backline).  Players engage, violent shed the player and then throw the blocker away from returner.  In the beginning the players will spend a longer time engaging with the blocker to focus on the hand placement and throwing technique.  This is sped up as the season moves on and players become more familiar with the drill.  Pursuit angles are also stressed as part of this drill.


To see video of ULM’s Butt Drill, click on the link below:

Drill #3:  Edge

The third and final step of Louisiana Monroe’s coverage circuit addresses angling to the ball to make the tackle.  This drill is the only one of its kind that we came across in our research.  The drill stresses taking a tight angle while disengaging the blocker as the angle of pursuit gets much harder the further the blocker is able to push the tackler up field.

Concept / Coaching Points:  This drill focuses on setting the edge as they approach the ball carrier.  The players are coached to create as tight and as short edge as possible.  It is critical to “squeeze” the box on the kick returner.  The hoop used in the drill has roughly 4 yard diameter. 


To see video of ULM’s Edge Drill, click on the link below:



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  1. Villanova University
  2. Ball State University
  3. University of Louisiana Monroe
  4. Marist College
  5. Prairie View A&M University
  6. The Citadel
  7. Cal Poly
  8. Jenks High School
  9. And many more…

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