Having a strong special teams unit is by far the most effective way to give yourself an edge on gameday at all levels of football. Whether you’re at a talent disadvantage, are weaker on another side of the ball, or need an ace up your sleeve to be the difference, special teams is one of the easiest ways to have a big impact on the outcome of games.
Not every team devotes the proper amount of practice time and game planning to their special teams units each week, and with the variety of phases of special teams play, there’s multiple opportunities to get a leg up on the competition.
In today’s article, we’ll be covering the kickoff coverage scheme and positions from a segment of our newest video series from Coach Dan Sabock, the Associate Special Teams Coordinator at Temple University.
Coach Sabock covers the terminology that his staff uses for each position on their kickoff team as well as the responsibilities of each player.
Watch the video below, or read on to learn more.
Temple doesn't label their kickoff coverage guys in the traditional way. Most special teams schemes number the players and give them a side, so they call them L1, L2, and so on.
What they decided to do instead was to label the players by their responsibility, so that there would be no confusion about what each man's job is supposed to be. Instead of a left/right designation, they would use "Field" and "Boundary" to tell each man where they would line up.
The Missile Position
The first position Coach Sabock covers is the "Missile" position. As we talked about in the previous paragraph, they have a Field Missile and a Boundary Missile.
These must be your two most disruptive players on the kickoff team.
Their responsibility is simple- They have nothing to do except to go tackle the ball carrier and make the return team account for you.
You might think to yourself that you'd want to put the best tackler here, but this position is actually not the one that makes a lot of the tackles. The reason is because he's usually the guy who gets downfield first, and they block him with someone like an off-returner, and he forces the ball carrier to change direction.
That guy is usually going to come down the field with a lot of speed, so unless that returner runs right into him, he's usually not going to be able to make the tackle, but as long as he can be there to force a change of direction and momentum, he's done his job.
The Field & Boundary Vice
The responsibility of the vice is to keep the ball on their inside shoulder. The vice is created by having two guys on either side of one person (the ball carrier). The vice’s left shoulder and right shoulder leverage work together and their paths combine to create a “v” which symbolizes the vice that forces the runner in between the two who eventually will make the tackle.
The Field & Boundary Stack
The field & boundary stack positions are Coach Sabock’s favorite in his kickoff scheme. These players run full speed to the 50 yard line, then stack to the vice players. This should be like a linebacker stacking behind the defensive end in a 3-3 stack defense. This idea originated from Coach Sabock’s defensive roots.
At the high school level Coach Sabock recommends stacking closer to the 45 or even the 40 yard line because of the closer proximity to the returner.
When stacking behind the vice players, if they do not beat their double team matchup, the field and boundary stack players must take on the responsibilities of the vice players because their job is so vital to the coverage scheme.
Field & Boundary Contain
Containing the ball carrier is obviously one of the most important pieces of the return scheme, but coach Sabock has a unique approach to this area of his kickoff unit. Sabock chooses to be incredibly aggressive and rather than containing the return, he contains the ball by making aggressive efforts to tackle it as quickly as possible.
Sabock wants his contain players chasing the ball with their hair on fire and running loose in pursuit of the ball carrier. He is careful to only drill being conservative on inside rip moves when it becomes a frequent issue for specific players.
Sabock teaches successful aggressive contain strategy by constricting the return from running through the outside hip of the widest guy in the return.
If a contain player sees that the kickoff return is dropping in, they need to replace their outside foot and hips by running off the edge.
If the blockers are coming directly at the contain player, contain the football, set an edge, constrict it, and skim the edge to the tackle.
Field & Boundary Safety
The next positions are the field and boundary safeties. These safeties work with the contain players similar to how the contain players work with the vice players.
When facing returns at you, the safeties will fill off of the contain players.
When facing returns away from you, the safeties will fold and cut back. This creates safety nets on each side of every player and allows the contain players to fly to the ball.
The final position in Temple’s kickoff scheme is the kicker. The kicker’s main required skill is strong directional kicking. When kicking, hang time is your friend and a huge asset to the unit as a whole, which is why you almost want your kicker thinking like a punter in this situation.
Coach Sabock shoots for elite speed off the kick and ideally would like his guys to reach the inside of the 30 yard line by the time the ball is fielded. This is very challenging to do, but you’ve almost assuredly won the rep if you’ve done so.
Sabock has his kicker aim for the divider in between the numbers and the hash. If the ball is kicked too far to the corner of the field, all of your field players are too far away from the ball to make a play.
By kicking to the divider, this allows your kickoff unit to be symmetrical and to execute at a high level.
After the kick, the kicker releases down the field and is covering the return by creating a cup with the safeties.
Check out the full video clinic series Temple Special Teams Schemes HERE