Punt Return Unit Vs Shield Punt

By FirstDown PlayBook on Mar 14, 2022

If you are a young football coach one of the things that you can bank on is that you are going to have special teams duty. It’s just one of the rights of passage in our profession. One of the phases that can be overwhelming for a young football coach is the punt return unit.

There are so many moving parts to a punt return. One of the first things that becomes evident to a new coach in charge of punt return is that you are coaching defense at the beginning of the play (at least you better be). After the ball is kicked, you are coaching offense at the end of the play. It is such an important play. The fake must be defended at all cost while also finding leverage for a return.

If your head coach has you in charge of this unit, take it as a compliment. He understands that every time someone lines up too kick the ball to you, your team has five downs to do something with it. He is entrusting you with the first one. Let’s start with the obvious. It goes without saying that you want to find your most talented player as your returner.

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Punt returners are often different than kickoff returners. Kickoff returners tend to be slashing, north-south kind of runners. Your punt returner may be small. They may be the jitter bug type who can change direction side to side as well as they advance the ball down the field. Punt returners need to be fearless as well. It takes a special person to stay focused on the ball as it drops out of the sky as three or more player bear down on you.

What Are Your Day One Priorities When Installing Punt Return?

Today though, what we want to focus on are day one organization kind of things. The video below is a little older, but it has been a popular tool for teaching a young coach how to get started with coaching punt return. There are some good tips on how to name your players and why that is important. Even if you don’t use this system, you will want to cover these basics if you coach this unit.

Before you start drawing up the latest greatest punt return or scheming a way to block punts, you will want to cover the things in this video first. One of the worst feelings in the world is to have the head coach coming towards you down the sideline looking for you, after you get burned by a fake punt. So we want to help you out with avoiding that.

Don’t Forget Your Special Teams Resume

One last thing on our way out today. FirstDown PlayBook has six very detailed special teams clinics we did a few years back. They are on the FirstDown PlayBook website for members. These clinics had nearly a hundred or so high school and college coaches attend each of them virtually. There were a lot of good questions that you will find helpful. Guarantee it.