Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 in Review: Shield Punt

During last off-season I spent a lot of time studying different punt schemes. One which continued to catch my eye was the “Shield Punt”.  A ton of college programs were using it and I had previously read an article about it in one of the American Football Coaches Association publications. I also solicited input from the Coach Huey community and thought I had been convinced to move forward with my plans.
Still, I found myself doubting its effectiveness. We had been punting from a spread formation and were a half man, half zone protection unit. That punt scheme was something I felt extremely comfortable with and knew inside-out. But, we continued to have issues getting downfield and covering kicks and teaching the protection scheme was not economical. Our number one issue was that we had trouble getting downfield and covering kicks. We are not the type of team that is going to be successful in space against some of the athletic teams we face in our league.
Knowing this, I decided to make the leap and change our scheme last summer. I planned out the necessary details and drills and moved ahead with a plan to install our version of the Shield Punt.
Boy, were we happy we did!
Our big boys loved being the heart of the punt team!
We attempted 31 punts this season. Our punter averaged 31.4 yards per attempt and we downed six kicks inside the 20-yard line including one that died on the one-yard line. Out of those 31 punts, opponents didn’t even attempt to field the kick 20 times!
Think about that! Two-thirds of our punts were not even returnable. We didn’t have to attempt to make a tackle on 67% of our punts!
This is because the Shield Punt releases defenders into lanes right away and high school returners  (and some coaches for that matter) don’t want to touch a ball if they’re in a crowd for fear of muffing the kick.
Out of the other 11 punts, six were fair caught (including five alone in our playoff game). We only had to make a tackle in space five times throughout the season! That was my main goal with this unit.
Our opponents averaged only two return yards when we punted (giving us a net of 29.4 yards per punt), with most coming on a 50-yard return that we missed some easy tackles and probably out-kicked our coverage on.
Another reason I initially shied away from the Shield Punt was that I viewed its basic formation as difficult from which to run a fake from.
I love running fakes on special teams. I enjoy taking advantage of schematic disadvantages most special teams units put themselves in and love the momentum-grabbing effect that a converted fourth-down on special teams can have on an offense.
Our spread punt left the door open to run whatever type of fake we wanted to. This new Shield Punt seemed like it wouldn’t fit that mold. It was the last hurdle I had to clear mentally before diving in head first.
Last season, in our spread punt, we were 3-for-4 for 78 yards and three converted first downs when we faked a punt.
After some careful studying and a lot of doodling I found a handful of fakes I thought would work well with the Shield Punt. They turned out to be a success this year. We were 2-of-3 for 18 yards and two first downs on fakes. The one we didn’t convert was a bad, emotional call from me. We didn’t have the numbers advantage we normally look for. I just felt like we could catch them off guard and get it.
On top of all that we also forced opponents into four penalties for 50 yards, two of which were roughing the kicker calls, while only committing one penalty for five yards ourselves.
All in all, we only lost five yards throughout the entire season on punt when you tally punt return yardage, our fake yardage and penalty yardage on both sides. That's way better than where we had been in year's past.

Check out some clips below. The last two are fakes we ran successfully this  season.

Oh Snap!

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Most weeks we found that teams didn't know how to scheme their punt return or block. Most teams didn't rush or attempt to set up a return. If they did, it wasn't executed well. 

One issue we had throughout the season was our front line guys bowing back. Although we never got called for not having enough men on the line of scrimmage, we were warned twice by refs.

We need to get better at blocking at the guard and tackle positions. This season, I didn't coach them up well enough and as such there first steps were off and we lost ground sometimes.
I will continue to fine tune this unit in the off-season, but I am now completely sold on the Shield Punt.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking back...2012 in Review

"Reflection is the better part of a champion"
I took a major break from this blog as things got hectic with our spring and summer program and didn't even think about it during our actual football season.
It feels good to be back and have an outlet to reflect upon this year.
This season was a step in the right direction for our football program. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2009, beat our cross-town rivals for the first time in five years and won seven games, something that hasn’t happened at our school since 2002.
Unfortunately, we ran into a solid program in the first round of the playoffs and fell 49-19.
Last season we went 2-8 following a 4-6 showing in 2010. Those were both very long years. This season flew by. We had a lot of fun along the way and although I didn’t always take time to enjoy the voyage, I’ve been able to reflect upon the success we had now that the season is over.
It was truly a remarkable trip. This year’s seniors had won a combined five football games their first three years of high school football. Those who stuck it out showed tremendous resolve. And they were rewarded for their hard work.
This year was my fourth as Defensive Coordinator and fifth overall coaching high school football. Our defense had a remarkable turnaround from the previous season. Last year we had major issues tackling and giving up big plays. It showed as we allowed our opponent’s to score over 37 points per game.
This group of seniors was our first who learned our offensive and defensive schemes as freshman and ran it for four years in the program. I think that definitely attributed to our success this season. Although we lacked some size and speed defensively we made up for it by understanding our alignment and assignment and then executing our jobs at a high rate. Our players deserve a ton of credit for how football smart they are and for how well they retained what was taught to them throughout their career.
As some of you know, we run a 4-2-5 that blends itself between multiple styles. We base out of Cover 4, but we also run Cover 3, zone blitz and run Cover 0 blitzes. We use an Over front that can be set anywhere we want and get into an Under front against 21 personnel  teams.
We are multiple, but simple at the same time. Regardless of what exact call we are in, I want my players to know where to line up, who their key is and how they react to that key. I want them playing fast.
This season our defense made a tremendous turnaround from the previous one. In 2011, we couldn’t stop teams from running on us, gave up over 37 points per game and were the worst tackling team I had ever been around.
This year, we gave up 20.63 points per game and allowed 50 yards less per game (255) than we did last season.
I always look at 3rd-down conversion percentage as a tell-tale sign of whether or not a defense is any good. The ability to get off the field when given the chance is key to success. Our goal for every game is to hold our opponents to 30% or less on 3rd down conversions. This season we held our opponents to 28% on 3rd down, a 10% improvement!
We forced 25 takeaways (12 interceptions and 13 fumbles), six more than last year and increased our sack total by eight.
All this was accomplished with only one full-time returning starter in our front seven. The strength of our defense was definitely our safeties and corners, three of whom were starters last year. Two of them earned 1st-team All League status at defensive back and a third earned 1st-team honors offensively.
I didn’t do a whole lot differently than any previous season. But, I did make a switch and coach the defensive backs. The previous three seasons I had been the linebackers coach. I was lucky enough to have our previous JV Head Coach move up and assist with the LBs and our defensive line coach did a tremendous job as always.
We did use a different approach to introduce tackling fundamentals and I felt like we did a better job correcting fundamental tackling mistakes during practice.
This season and the talent we have coming up in our program has given us a very positive outlook on the next couple of years. This year’s team laid the foundation for this program to build for years to come.

*In future entries, I will continue to reflect on the 2012 season, but in more detail in regards to our schemes, other areas of our program, what went right, what went wrong, etc.