While the kick off team at the NFL level is becoming more and more obsolete due to the rule changes, which has kickers sailing their kicks through the endzone, high school and college games continue to have their contests impacted greatly by this unit. It has been my philosophy that the kick off team has three keys directing the unit’s success. These essential components are disguise, lane integrity, and great tackling.
The disguise feature of our KO unit is in the shifting of personnel at the onset of the kick. This exchanging of positions among teammates disallows the opposing team to sit back and adjust their return blocking in a typical fashion, which is numbering off the KO team members and having rules in place for blocking each person. Showing a variety of looks every week keeps the return call basic and unable to implement double team blocks based off of our initial alignment.
Lane integrity is a common concern for all Special Team Coordinators. We coach our players to have tremendous attention to detail regarding lane integrity. We break the field up into 10 sections and have very specific rules for our players to operate in those areas. Our rules adjust but do not change if we are directionally kicking or even performing a pop kick. This way we do not offer any personnel adjustment that might “tip our hand” on where we are kicking.
The final essential component is great tackling. We do not discuss the importance of tackling with our players so we can check it off and move on to the next issue. We believe whole heartedly that great tackling on special teams literally wins games for us. We have a variety of drills that simulate the angles and speed our players must operate with to ensure solid tackling. Many of our special team’s players are not full time defensive players so they do not receive tackling in their daily position drills. We take great pride in our angles of pursuit and great tackling finishes.
There are many intricacies to successful special team performances. These are just three of the ones I find to be most crucial in successful outcomes on Saturdays. Having selfless players who understand that no job on our team is too big or too small and buying in to our special team philosophy is what drives these three components to be our foundational principles of success.
Coach Chris Petrilli
Special Teams Coordinator
College of Idaho