Brian Kelly made a big change moving on from Brian Polian as special teams coordinator. John Jancek, who served as senior defensive analyst in 2022, has been elevated to the position for 2023. While this may seem like a challenging job, Jancek can find success by capitalizing on some key objectives. Lucky for you, I am an expert in special teams strategy and will be breaking down some little secrets that can help a special teams unit become a dominant force.
Practice Fielding Punts
Fielding punts is an important part of winning football games. Your defense worked very hard to force a punt, don’t squander that opportunity! By learning how to catch punts without dropping the ball, you are ensuring your offense gets a chance to score and your defense has time to rest.
Practice Fielding Kickoffs
Catching kickoffs may not seem ideal because you’re so backed up in your own territory. Consider however that if you don’t catch the kickoff the other team can recover the ball with excellent field position. Catching a kickoff is an important first step in stringing together a scoring drive.
Practice Kicking Field Goals/Extra Points
Obviously nothing compares to scoring touchdowns, but field goals and extra points are still a valuable resource for football teams. One or three points could be the difference between wins and losses. Making sure you can convert those kicking opportunities can add up in the end.
Practice Blocking for the Kicker
Kicking the ball through the uprights is already a difficult and stressful ordeal for the kicker, so don’t add on to it by giving pass rushers an opportunity to swat the ball down before it’s in the air. Believe it or not, having kicks blocked can greatly affect a team’s chance to win a close game. Trust me on this.
Practice Blocking Opposing Teams’ Kicks
Now that you understand how important it is for your kicker to convert scoring opportunities, realize that it would greatly behoove you to prevent the other team’s kicker from scoring. Blocking opponents’ field goals and extra points can chip away at their point total, making it harder for them to close the gap.
Practice What To Do When Your Kick Is Blocked
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Should your team’s kick get blocked, it’s important to remember proper response protocol. It’s a far-fetched scenario, but theoretically your players could walk off the field assuming the play is over while the other team runs the ball back for a touchdown, resulting in a 10-point swing. That’s obviously an extreme example that would only happen to a coach who has no idea what he’s doing, so don’t worry too much about that.
Practice Tackling on Kickoffs and Punts
Giving the ball back to the other team isn’t fun, but it is a realistic part of football. When you surrender possession, be ready to limit opposing ball carriers’ returns so they don’t get a field position advantage. Failing to do so puts your defense in a bind and will only complicate your winning efforts.
Save yourself the trouble of having to make a tackle by not even giving your opponent a chance to return the kick. By kicking the ball high and far enough, you can achieve a touchback and save yourself the risk of injury or a big return.
As nice as it would be to score on every possession, it’s not going to happen very often. Punting is the most important part of winning the game within the game, the field position battle. By keeping your opponent on the wrong side of the 50, you are giving your offense and defense adequate room to work.
Don’t Get Your Coaching Position Just Because Your Dad Was An NFL GM
Jancek’s Wikipedia doesn’t mention his parents so I think we’re good there.