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By Nick Smith and Clint Hodges, Defensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, South Effingham High School (GA)

Are you heading into next season without a great option at punter? If so, check out what these coaches did that changed their special teams for the better. Read it here...

By Nick Smith and Clint Hodges
Defensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
South Effingham High School (GA)
Twitter: @nhasmith
Twitter: @hawgswag

 

 

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At South Effingham High School, we have become accustomed to finding a way to utilize the kids that we have because we aren’t always blessed with kids that fit a certain mold. Going into the season of 2012, we had graduated our punter, and we did not have another player who we thought could step in and punt effectively in the traditional shield punt mode. We needed an answer to our punting game.

After much research, we settled on a concept by Abe Mikell that we thought we could incorporate into something that could work for us. We took his basic formation and rules and went to work. His article gave insight on how to line up and cover in meticulous detail. What really caught our attention was how one could use the rugby punt in a way to gain another offensive down. Since fourth down is still an offensive down, we can use it to put the other team in bad field position or as an opportunity to fake a punt and gain a first down in order to keep your offense on the field.

We had a very athletic WR/DB with long legs and a lot of speed, so we decided to give him a try at being our punter. The first couple of weeks we tried it, we ran into quite a few questions and roadblocks. That said, we also saw how our kids embraced this new idea, and everyone loved it. We had many fakes we could run out of this formation, and the ability our punter had to tuck the ball and run if he had the edge was another huge added benefit. All in all, we had made our decision to sell out to the rugby punt, and it paid huge dividends for us. In this article, we will try to explain our basic ideas on our personnel, alignment, protection, coverage, punter’s rules and fakes.

 

Pros

  • Difficult for the defense to align to the formation
  • Opposing team has to spend extra time in practice lining up to punt team
  • No aiming point for blocks like there is with a traditional punt. Toe doesn’t meet the ball at the same spot each time.
  • Protection is simplified and executed by personnel used to blocking
  • You don’t have to have a real “punter” to have an effective punting game
  • Because of all of the FAKES in the arsenal, we think we gain an offensive down
  • Snapper only has to snap it 10 yards, more accurate snaps.
  • Coverage is much easier and marginalized because returners are reluctant to field a bounding ball
  • The punt portion of practice becomes fun instead of a dread at practice

 

Cons

  • Not quite as effective when ball is positioned on the right hash.
  • Perimeter pressure from the right takes getting used to. There will be struggles early in practice but you can work through them!
  • Pressure will intensify if you aren’t willing to fake on occasion.

 

Personnel

We originally used a mixture of offensive and defensive players. We handpicked players who fit this system the best, and it took quite a few reps in order to mix and match and make sure we had the proper players in the proper places to make rugby punting effective for us and put the defense in as much of a bind as we could. There are 6 linemen (we used our OL mostly, the left Tackle must be a threat to catch a pass), 2 wings (the one in motion needs to be a great open field tackler), an upback (must be able to handle a snap at times and block the “A” gap rusher). We have used our starting quarterback as the upback for the last couple of years. We rarely get a play side A gap rusher and just the fact that he is in the backfield seems to reduce the overall rush. We also use a split end (gunner type), and a punter (preferably an athletic player who can run).

 

 

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  • How the pre-snap judgement of the punter ties into the fake menu in Rugby punts and the options the staff will provide him with during game week.
  • Why one foot splits play side, and wider splits backside, particularly with the tackle, have seemed to work best to prevent defensive overloads.
  • How alignments will be altered for the upback and split end from stagnant vs. motion looks.
  • Why a 10-yard alignment of the punter forces backside rushers to change the angles for their block paths.
  • The protection and coverage responsibilities of each of the players on the punt team.
  • Plus, game film on both punt and fake punt concepts.

 

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Conclusion

If you are looking for a way to become more aggressive in your punting game and willing to take a few chances by faking some punts, rugby punting is the way to go. Another thing to remember is this type of punting also affords your team to have a good punting game without having a “real” punter. Remember, this is where we got the idea to transition to this style of punting. Also, by virtue of the “ugly” kick your coverage team doesn’t have to be as athletic. The main thing I will leave you with is if you make the decision to rugby punt, do not dabble in it. You must dive in and believe in it wholeheartedly. We had some early troubles with it but believed in it and ultimately it helped us win some ballgames. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

 

Meet Coach Nick Smith: Smith just completed his 11th year of coaching high school football. He serves as the Defensive Coordinator and Inside Linebackers Coach at South Effingham High School. He wants to thank his wife, Heather, for eight great years for the sacrifices she makes so that he can do what he loves.

Meet Coach Clint Hodges: Coach Hodges is currently the offensive coordinator at Effingham County High School in Springfield, GA. Hodges wants to thank his wife for being “the most supportive and loving wife in the world.”

 

 

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