One of the most difficult things in coach Special Teams is teaching players to change from dropping back to moving forward to make the block. On the same note it equally difficult to teach coverage players to press the blockers and get past them. The Fly Zone Drill is designed specifically to address these issues and work on these core skills of coverage and return.
Special Teams: Kickoff Fly Zone Drill
In the Fly Zone Drill there is one blocker and one coverage player and a gate down the field. The goal of the coverage player is to get through the gate and the goal of the blocker is to keep the coverage player from getting through the gate. What makes this drill so effective is that each player is getting a live competition rep on a skill set that is very difficult to practice.
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Similar to a game scenario kickoff, the coverage player is at an advantage. The blocker must not only run backwards and get set up but he also needs to come forward and engage the coverage player. The coverage player must use this to his advantage and press the blocker by using his speed. The coverage player has three option to beat the blocker. His first option is to beat the blocker to the point and rip past him. We define the point as the place where the blocker can only stop the coverage player by hitting him in the back. If the coverage player can’t beat the blocker to the point he will step hard off his point side foot and rip through the back of the blocker. With either of these options it is critical that he resets himself and re-establishes his relationship with the rest of the coverage team.
The third option for the coverage player is when he can’t avoid the blocker. In this situation he will use the butt and press technique to get past the blocker. When the coverage player uses the butt and press he will build up his speed and get his pad level below the blocker. As he hits the blocker he needs to shoot both hands into the blockers chest plate, extend and continue to drive the blocker back. Once he has located the ball carrier he can rip through to the correct side and get back into his coverage relationship.
While the coverage player has the advantage of speed the blocker has the advantage of leverage and numbers. The hardest part of covering a kickoff is the vast amount of space the coverage unit has to account for. If the coverage unit has 8 players in active coverage (1 kicker and 2 safeties) by taking out one coverage player they take out 12.5% of the coverage unit. This opens up space for the return man. The main idea is that this block doesn’t have to be the world’s greatest block, if he can simply occupy the coverage player he can take away 12.5% of the coverage unit.
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The coaching points for the coverage player are relatively basic but difficult to master. The first point that must be stressed is that the coverage player must get to the point first. By getting to the point first he gives himself leverage over the coverage player. Once the blocker gets to the point he must come forward. If he remains stationary the coverage player has all the advantage of momentum and can use the butt and press technique. Instead the blocker must get to the point and then come forward. As he is coming forward he wants to attack the inside jersey number of the coverage man and drive him further outside than he wants to go. While it’s ideal to drive the coverage player outside to the sideline, the major goal is to cover him up so he can’t fill his lane.
While Fly Zone can be a physical drill there are ways to minimize the contact while still getting the coaching points in. The best way to take away the major hits is to remove the option for the coverage man to butt and press. If he is only allowed to avoid the blocker the amount of collisions will be decreased drastically.
The Kickoff is the most dynamic play in football. Everytime the ball is kicked each team is in a position to gain or lose upto 80 yards of field position. As a coach, if you expect to win Special Teams, it’s important that you give your players the skills necessary to dominate the play.