While it’s no secret that blocking kicks can alter the momentum of football games, but many coaches struggle not only with identifying potential kick blockers but developing the fundamentals needed to block kicks.
By Brian Mahan
Defensive Coordinator/Punt & FG Block Unit
Woodruff High School (SC)
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Here is the worst kept secret in football, blocking kicks is fun! Coaches and players alike get excited by blocking kicks, it’s a definite momentum shift in a game and brings a team’s energy level up a couple of notches when it occurs. First and foremost, I do not know all there is to know about blocking kicks and I never will have all the answers for it. As we all know as coaches it’s not about the X’s & O’s, it’s about the “Johnny & Joes”, as Bobby Bowden always liked to say, and we were fortunate enough to have these types of players that could execute our block schemes. In 2018 we had two young men that had this ability, Nigel Cochran and Brian Hunter, that were responsible for all 10 blocked kicks. Nigel and Brian both had the desire to block kicks and it helped they were great athletes!
We do our best to identify 3-4 guys we believe could go and block these kicks and try to put them in a position to be successful at it. During the 2018 season, our team blocked more kicks (10), than any team I have coached before and returned two of them for scores. Blocking kicks is an art form in a sense, I learned from a former boss of mine at Georgetown High School in Georgetown, SC, Coach Barry Avant, who firmly believed in trying to block every punt and kick attempted in a game. Over the years I’ve been able to base our current block schemes off what I learned from Coach Avant. Currently, our Head Coach, Bradley Adams, believes in going after these types of opportunities at the right times and it's our job as a block unit to take advantage of those opportunities when presented and give our team a lift or change the momentum of the game. In this report, I will show and discuss our schemes for blocking punts and field goal/extra point attempts and hopefully give you some ideas to use with your block units.
The first thing we always teach to our block unit is our base alignment and the stances we want them in. Players will “crowd” the line of scrimmage in a “bunched” stance. Their hand will be even with their front foot, with their face behind their hand. We number our rushers inside-out from 5 on the inside to 1 on the outside. Now there will be times we want to disguise a return and a block and have everyone in two-point stances. This really just depends on our scheme for the week as well. There are also those instances, like this past season, our kick blockers feel more comfortable in a two-point stance rather than the three-point stance.
- 5’s – Alignment is on the shoulders of the long snapper
- 4's – Alignment is head up to slightly inside the eye of the guard
- 3’s – Alignment is head up to slightly inside eye of the tackle
- 2’s – Alignment is head up to slightly inside eye of the end
- 1’s – Alignment is outside should of the end
Punt Protection Schemes:
Next, we believe it is a must to teach the players the types of blocking schemes that are used in punt and field goal protections by our opponents. This is key in determining our punt block scheme for the upcoming game. The two most common types we see are inside and outside zone.
- Versus Outside Zone Structure, players will have their outside foot back.
- Versus Inside Zone Structure, players will have their inside foot back. (5’s will always have their inside foot back).
Know the Rules for Blocked Kicks:
One thing I have found that you must also teach with this are the rules of the kicking team advancing a blocked kick. We always go through each scenario if the kick is blocked and does not go past the line of scrimmage and what can happen if the kicking team picks the ball up and begins to run with it. In contrast, we also discuss if the ball is partially blocked and barely makes it past the line of scrimmage and instituting our "peter" call if this happens. Both of these situations have hurt and helped us in previous years so we as coaches cannot assume our players know the rules of the game as well as maybe we do. When the kick is blocked, we cannot stop and pick it up. We must "scoop" it toward our goal line. If we scoop it up into our hands and gain possession, all other players should turn around and block. If we can't gain possession, we will keep scooping it until we do. Needless to say, “scoop and score” is one of our turnover circuits for defense once a week.
One of our worse and best moments of 2018, when we didn’t fully understand the rules of blocked kicks. We get good penetration on the wing on the right side to make him fold down and allow Nigel to come off the edge and block this field goal. Notice however we did not bother to cover or scoop and score and our opponent picked the ball up and walked in for a TD, certainly a very coachable moment for us.
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- How Coach Mahan teaches the proper angles to get to block points, including how to read the reaction of the personal protector.
- How Coach Mahan schemes up blocks from his safe return unit.
- Block scheme variations against shield punt units.
- Block scheme variations against pro style units.
- Techniques in blocking field goal/extra point attempts
- Plus, game film of all these concepts.
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I sincerely hope this helps in your quest to become a sound kick block unit. Special teams are a vital part of the game and if taken seriously enough can change the course of games and lead to more wins. We firmly believe in having sound special teams and try to avoid the costly errors that can come with them not being fundamentally sound. As I said in the first part of this report you can come up with great schemes to block kicks, but you must have the athlete that has the knack for blocking them. Blocking kicks excites our players and they really look forward to our 10-15 minutes each week that we work on these schemes. It certainly made a difference in some games for us in the 2018 season.
Meet Coach Brian Mahan: Coach Mahan has coaching for 22 years with most of it being on the offensive side. The last 6 years he has been a defensive coordinator at Georgetown High School, Georgetown, SC; Union County High School, Union, SC; Woodruff High School, Woodruff, SC. Coach Mahan has also served as a special team's coordinator for two seasons in the past. Currently, he is the defensive coordinator and coaches the inside linebackers at Woodruff High School in Woodruff, South Carolina and is also in charge of the punt return and kick block units.