Special Teams Circuits: Case 2 – Kickoff Coverage

Apr 17, 2014 | Kickoff Coverage, Special Teams


kickoffcoverageBy Sam Nichols

Managing Editor

X&O Labs



Editor’s Note:  With the intent of presenting actual practice videos of these circuits, along with detailed coaching points that correspond with them, what you will see below is the format most similar to what the rest of special report will look like.  This is different than the text-based special reports XandOLabs.com has presented before. 


According to our survey, 74% of coaches use a circuit to as part of their kickoff coverage teaching and practice regiment.  This number was the highest of the 4 special teams we researched and was by far the most common set of drills that coaches offered up to share with the X&O Labs community.  We asked these coaches directly to share what they use, and they were gracious enough to so do. 



Perhaps the reason for kickoff being the most common circuit is the fact that it is the simplest to put together.  For the most part, all of the players on the field need to master the same skills and those skills can easily be segmented for more depth.  The circuits also allow them to do less full field sprints while focusing on the fundamentals of each of the three basic parts of kickoff coverage (start, attack, and tackling).  Consider what Mike Minter, the head coach at Campbell University, told us about how effective his kickoff circuits have been for him.  “Circuits help you get more out of the limited time you have as a Special Teams coach,” said Minter.  “You get a player to get reps at different techniques that are critical to you winning your individual matchup. Like our tackling circuit on kickoff. We are able to teach a player three different ways that they will have to make a tackle on kickoff. So not only do they work on tackling in these drills they will work on leverage with another player and how to take on a block in the hit zone. They also will learn how to avoid blockers in the speed zone. So a player is learning multiple things in a 12 minute period. You also can get more individual coaching in because your numbers are broken down into a smaller group of players. The player will also get more reps at each station because of the smaller groups.”


As mentioned earlier, coaches almost universally segmented their circuit drills down into three distinct categories: start, attack, and tackle.  Within each of these subsets, the coaches were able to more clearly define the skills and approaches to executing in each phase.  This happens to fit perfectly with the “zone” chart that is commonly used by special teams coaches (see the example below from Travis Niekamp, the special teams coach at the University of Louisiana Monroe).


Some coaches focused their circuits on one particular category while others sought to practice all three phases of coverage in one complete circuit.  The circuits that we have chosen to include in this case show a variety of drills that fit into one or more of the categories listed.

Villanova Kickoff Circuits:

The Villanova special teams unit, or self-proclaimed Angry Birds, place a real premium on preparing their players for every potential situation their players will encounter.  As part of that, they use a variety of drills that we have divided into two segments; skill specific and fit specific.

Skill Specific Circuit

This set of drills includes 6 different options that Villanova will use on a rotating basis to both teach and perfect their coverage skills.  The circuit focuses on skills to avoid blockers at the 1st and 2nd level and open field tackling in both 1 and 2 man situations.  Below you will find the coaching points, diagrams, and video for these drills.

Drill 1:  V Tackle

This 2 on 1 tackling drill was presented in several versions throughout out research.  The Villanova version below focuses solely on the convergence on the ball carrier and provides instruction all the way through the tackle.

Concept / Coaching Points:  According to Villanova’s special teams coach Roc Bellantoni, “It simulates a two-on-one tackle.  The tackler to return side wraps up ball carrier. Other tackler strips ball as 2nd man in. It’s imperative to attack leverage side hip of the ball carrier.”  Coaches need to stress spacing and teamwork, understanding role (return side and 2nd tackler), leverage to the return side and pad level going in to the tackle. 



To see video of the “V” Tackle, click on the link below: