Extra Point and Field Goal Protection*
From Complete Guide to Special Teams by American Football Coaches Association
Extra point and field goal protection is often overlooked. It is easy to neglect it since extra points are supposed to be automatic, right? We have all won and lost games because of an extra point or because our opponent blocked a field goal attempt and returned for a touchdown. When this happens, we look at the film to see where the breakdown occurred and why it happened. Often technique is the reason. At the University of Iowa, our head coach, Kirk Ferentz, is adamant about coaching the finer points of every position and every unit. He is about paying attention to detail, using perfect technique, and trusting the fundamentals. He takes nothing for granted, not even extra point and field goal protection.
The placekick is crucial to success and often determines the final outcome of the game. We talk to our players about the importance of the FG-PAT (field goal-extra point) unit. We tell them that anytime we get within the 25-yard line, we have a great opportunity to score points. They should expect to score every time they take the field, but should not take it for granted. To be successful, the FG-PAT team must
- be disciplined in substitution;
- be disciplined in alignment and technique;
- have a great snap, hold, and kick;
- have confidence in our ability to execute the kick; and
- take pride in doing the job well.
This is how we coach the FG-PAT unit at Iowa. It isn't the only way to coach special teams, but it works well for us.
The center sets the huddle 8 yards from the line of scrimmage with his back to the line of scrimmage. He always sets the huddle on the right hash mark unless the ball is on the right hash mark; in that case he sets the huddle to the left of the ball. In the huddle, the offensive linemen face the holder, standing tall. The wings and the ends are in front with their hands on their knees, looking up. Everyone in the huddle must give his full attention to the holder. The kicker is not in the huddle; he is finding his spot.
The holder is the quarterback of this unit. It is his huddle. He needs to take control! His first responsibility is counting to make sure there are 10 men in the huddle and the kicker is on the field. His second responsibility is making all calls inside the huddle. He will tell the unit whether the kick is normal or a fake, giving the call twice. For example, he might call, "Field goal on center snap, field goal on center snap," or, "Fake right on center snap, fake right on center snap." After the second call, the center leaves the huddle. The holder says, "Ready, break." The unit claps their hands on "break" and sprints to the line of scrimmage.
The center leaves the huddle, approaches the ball, and gets into his stance as quickly as possible. The other players find their alignments based on the center. The guards take a three-point stance with the inside foot back and inside hand down. The guard to the center's right is in a left-handed stance. The guard's inside foot, the foot closest to the center, is directly behind the center's foot. Guards must be careful not to interlock with the center; that is a penalty. The guard's toes on the outside foot should be perpendicular to the center's foot. We want to create some vertical separation from the line of scrimmage. The guard must see the ball out of his peripheral vision.
Tackles base their alignments on the guards' alignment. Tackles take no more than a 6-inch split from the guards. Again, they use a three-point stance with the inside foot back and inside hand down. The tackle's toes on the outside foot should be perpendicular to the guard's foot. The tackle must see the ball out of his peripheral vision.
The ends take their alignments off the tackles. The ends align in a three-point stance with the inside foot back and inside hand down. The ends take no more than a 6-inch split from the tackles. The ends are different from the other interior linemen in that their outside foot is parallel to the tackle's outside foot. The ends should not create any more vertical separation from the line of scrimmage. Each end's helmet must be able to break the beltline of the center. If they do not break the beltline, there will not be enough men on the line of scrimmage. Ends also must see the ball out of their peripheral vision.
If you look at the FG-PAT unit's alignment from end to end, you should see a bow. This bow actually widens the corners for the rush unit. If you line everyone from end to end on the same plane, the rush unit has better angle coming off the edges to the block point. You must have seven men on the line of scrimmage, so make sure that your front seven are aligned so that their helmets break the beltline of the center.
Wings base their alignment on the ends. They use a two-point stance. Hands are on the knees, butt is down, and eyes are up. They align an arm's length off the end with the inside foot just behind the groin of the end. The wings face out at a 45-degree angle.
After breaking the huddle, the holder sets the spot for the kicker. The kicker should set his spot approximately 7 to 7 1/2 yards from the line of scrimmage. After the holder places his hand on the spot, the kicker can mark off his steps.
At Iowa, we use this alignment regardless of the hash mark the ball is placed on. If the ball is on either hash mark, you can use a tackle-over alignment. On hash kicks the flight of the ball often shortens the corner to the wide field. Some teams put the boundary-side tackle on the field. You only want to do this if you are kicking from the hash mark and are getting wide side rushes from the defense.
If you are kicking from the right hash mark, the wide side of the field is to the left. The right tackle aligns between the left tackle and the left end. The right tackle must now keep his outside foot parallel with the left tackle's outside foot. Again, his helmet should break the beltline of the center. If you were on the left hash mark, the left tackle would go to the right side.
The right tight end slides down beside the right guard. He can get some vertical separation from the line of scrimmage by moving his outside foot back to be perpendicular to the guard's outside foot. The techniques and footwork remain the same. By making these two simple personnel adjustments, you can take away the edge rushers' angle to the field.
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