By Dan McKenna
Special Teams Coordinator
Anna Maria College (MA)
Punt is the most important play in football. The number of players guaranteed to handle the ball and the exchange of possession and field position is what makes punt the most important play. The rugby punt is a great way to add simple variety to any punt formation. At AMC this past season, we had a lot of success working in the rugby technique with our existing scheme. We used the rugby through the combination of existing and new formations, making our punt scheme unique and multiple.
Before completely adopting this concept, we wanted to know exactly what we would be gaining and losing by going to the Rugby punt. Here is a list of pros and cons:
- Block point changes
- Rushers must alter their path to the block point.
- The distance between the block point and the backside to A-gap rushers increases.
- Reduces stress on protection
- Frontline can take a more aggressive approach and attack rushers moving laterally/forward, instead of having to protect moving backward in their steps. (Bucket step VS. Kick slide)
- Allows coverage to release/get downfield easier
- Keeps attention on punter/in backfield.
- The longer the punter can cradle the ball, the more the coverage can close to the returner.
- Limits block and return schemes
- Being able to punt from the pocket and rugby in any situation creates difficulty to match block and return schemes with each punt.
- Creates problems for returner
- Difficult to read and field a rugby kick because of the limited hang time and roll. This can create turnovers due to an unpredictable bounce of the ball.
- Returner is often forced to let ball roll or fair catch.
- Can increase ball security issues
- The punter has a greater chance of mishandling the ball on a rugby punt because of the movement involved in his steps, not looking the ball in (catch and mold) and executing a clean drop while on the move.
- Punter’s mechanics
- Drop and point of contact need to be emphasized more in practice to stay consistent with the rugby movement. Punter mechanics can get sloppy when punter is focused on moving.
- Can create seams and an open front-side edge rush if the protection’s steps are not executed correctly and in good relation with the punter’s rugby steps.
As with almost any aspect of football, it is critical to know your personnel! When considering adding the rugby technique, the focus should be solely on the punter. Some punters are strictly “pocket punters” that are most productive punting the traditional way. Fit the scheme to the punter to maximize his strengths.
Here are a few things we evaluate when determining if the rugby technique fits the punter:
Ball security – Does the punter consistently catch and mold the football to his body, especially as he takes his lateral steps. Ball security can be a bigger issue in a rugby punt if the punter is too focused on getting out of the pocket and reading the rush instead of looking the ball in and focusing on hand placement and drop.