Punt Coverage in Youth Football
Punt coverage in youth football requires a lot of practice time. When your team is forced to punt the football it is vital that you are able to block, get the punt off, and cover the punt. Ideally, you do not want the return team to return the football because their returner is probably their best athlete. We believe in punting, but many teams don’t punt at all. For us, it really depends on a couple different factors.
Some teams prefer a spread or shield punt formation. Some other teams prefer a compressed/tight punt formation. Here is a breakdown of a compressed/tight punt formation.
When punting in youth football, every linemen is responsible for securing their inside gap. You always want your offensive linemen to secure their inside gap first. You do not want your linemen going down field, but you also do not want them leaning/stepping back. If the blockers step back or lean back, it will allow the punt rushers to drive the offensive linemen back/bull them over, which could lead to a blocked punt. Make sure your linemen are in good strong stances, keeping low leverage. Every player will step down creating a wall. You want to meet force with force, have the linemen step into their blocks!
The blocking back is always lined up to the kicker’s kicking foot side. He is responsible for plugging up any leakage in the interior of the line. The wing backs (3) & (4) will take any defender rushing outside the TEs. They will be 2 yards behind the ball, in a square 2-point stance. You want the wing backs to get into a wide stance, making themselves big. When they make themselves big the defenders will naturally line up and rush wider, taking themselves out of the play.
Wing back (4): Secure D gap fan out, contain (outside TE).
Right Tight-end: Secure C gap, fan out.
Right Tackle: Secure B gap, fan out.
Right Guard: Secure A gap, fan out.
Center: Get wide, help secure A gaps. Focus should be entirely on getting off a good long snap. Most youth football leagues do not allow a defender to line up over the center, so snapping is all the center needs to be concerned with. Once the ball is kick the center goes right to the football.
Left Guard: Secure A gap, fan out.
Left Tackle: Secure B gap, fan out.
Left Tight-end: Secure C gap, fan out.
Wing back (3): Secure D gap fan out, contain.
The coverage team does not stop blocking until the ball is punted away. After the punter punts the football he should yell go! go! go! The punter needs to be loud! When the blockers hear “go”, they stop blocking and get down the field. The direction the ball was punted should also be yelled.
1. The punter must NEVER punt the ball right to the returner, or to the middle of the field. For example, if the ball is placed on the left hash, the punter needs to punt the ball to the left sidelines. If the ball is placed on the right hash, the punter needs to punt the ball to the right sidelines. The punter needs to aim for the short side sideline. If done properly the ball will usually run out of bounds.
2. Always make sure your coverage team fans out after the ball is kicked. It should almost look like a kickoff team running down the field. It is vital that the coverage players fan out because you can bet the returner will field the ball and go outside with it. If you are concerned about containment you can have the TEs split out and make them gunners and have them run down field as soon as the ball is kicked.
3. Offensive linemen need to step into their block. Meet force with force. DO NOT have them step back (like a pass block) and get bulled over.
4. Practice long snapping and punting everyday. We will actually do punting and long snapping before practice. If the kids are there early have them practicing punting and long snapping. Make sure other kids can do it as well. Do not have just one kicker and one long snapper.
Here is an excellent article on the proper technique for Punting and Kicking the Football.