Special Teams in Pigskin Empire consists of FOUR distinct parts. There is Kickoff Coverage, Kickoff Return, Punt Coverage and Punt Return. Each can be considered analogous to offense or defense. When you are kicking off or punting, that is similar to defense and when you are returning a kick, it is similar to offense. The basic tenants of each apply to special teams as well. In this guide, there will be sections with guides for each aspect of special teams play creation as well as how to set your depth chart. I will not provide a tutorial on play making nor will I give up the secrets of special teams, but I will give you the correct philosophy to take with special teams in PSE. Many coaches do not take the field position battle seriously, but having good special teams can really make a difference in that big game.
When you're focusing on kickoff coverage, you want to think of it like defense. The basic idea that you want to keep outside contain on the ball carrier and funnel it to the middle also applies to kickoff coverage.
You first have to decide where you are going to kick the ball. Kicking to the middle of the field is the most reliable option as you know where the ball will be. Kicking to the corners is more risky because if your kicker is not accurate, he will have a high chance of kicking out of bounds. This will cause the opponent to have the ball at their own 40 yard line and make life MUCH harder for your defense. Wherever you choose to kick the ball, you then have to tell your coverage players where to go, always keeping in mind that you want to prevent the ball going outside of your outer-most contain player.
It is best to have a good balance between pathing, chase commands and zones. Pathing will tell your players where to go on the field, chase commands will have your players simply chase the ball and zones will have the players stay in an area and shadow the ball. It is best to use pathing to make your players stay in a "coverage lane" then have him chase the ball. You might also consider players in zones as a safety valve. The best is to combine these three things to prevent the ball carrier getting to the outside.
Punt coverage is similar to kickoff coverage but it can be a completely different monster. You still want to prevent the ball carrier from getting to the outside and funneling him to the middle.
Just as in kickoffs, you can tell the punter where to punt the ball, but with no need to worry about penalties for kicking out of bounds. However, you will generally have a much shorter kick when you aim to the sides, so keep that in mind. Also, the pathing of your players can be funky when kicking away from the middle. You will have to experiment with some corner punts to see what exactly happens
Another aspect that must be considered with punt coverage is protecting the punter from having his punt blocked. You will have to find the correct balance between having your players cover the punt or protecting the punter. Remember: if you assign more players to block, you will have less players to cover the kick.
When you are covering kicks, be sure to always have players that keep outside containment. The most dangerous punt returns are ones that get outside of your coverage players. Also, consider that a weaker punter will have a short punt, causing the return man to be closer to your coverage players. A strong punter will have a long punt that will cause the return man to be much further from your coverage players.
Good kick returns have the same aspects as offense that you want to deceive the defense and get the ball to the outside. When you're making a kick return, you have to consider that the kick coverage could kick the ball to either side or the middle. The best is to scout the opposing team and see their favorite kickoff variation.
When considering your blocking scheme, you must try to get your blockers to block outside, in on the coverage players. That means that you want the blockers to get outside of the defenders and block them away from where the returner will be. You will have to experiment with having multiple players block a single coverage player. But beware, the unblocked coverage players can get to your returner unhindered. You might want to also experiment with returns down the middle where you have your blockers form a wedge of blocking for the returner. Most of
When pathing your returner, make sure to start his command with a field kick command. It may seem like a simple mistake, but it has been made by many a good coach. You then want to have your returner go to your intended return area. Here you will want to experiment with the length of the path before telling him to "run".
Punt returns are also very similar to offense but can be completely different than kick returns. With a punt return, you must consider that the punt may not always go to the middle, but may be a "coffin corner" punt. Corner kicks can do funky things to your play design, and you must experiment to determine what exactly it does.
Your blocking scheme is going to be dependent on where you want the return to go. If it goes to the outside, you will want to block outside in, but you may want a wedge style return. You have two options for blocking on punt returns. You can have the blockers block a specific player or do a zone block to block a player in the blocker's path. You will have to experiment to find the right balance of zone and man blocking that will effectively let your returner go untouched.
When pathing your returner, you will want to find a path that will help him avoid the coverage players and let him utilize his blockers most effectively. Here, you will also need to experiment to find the right distance of pathing before the returner's "run" command.
The key to strong punt returns is having a clear gameplan in mind. You have to have several different types of returns to counteract your opponent's punt plays effectively
Special Teams DepthEdit
When setting your special teams depth chart, you have to fully consider what the player will be doing on that special team. For example, you will want to have your inside players on punt coverage (C, OG, OT) be better blockers in case that you need to protect your punter. But you want them to be fast enough to cover a punt. Your gunners need to be fast to get to the returner quickly. For kickoffs, you want your outside players to be faster because they have to go farther on a coverage play. These are the things that you must keep in mind while setting your depth.
Special Teams GameplanningEdit
One of the main keys to good special teams is having a good gameplan for your opponent. It is best to have several different types of plays in your special teams playbook so that you can adapt to any situation. For kickoffs, you might want one to the side and one to the middle. Or for punt returns, you might want one to each side and a coffin corner return. You will have to really experiment to find the exact assortment of plays that will lead you to victory
Now get out there and make some special teams plays!!!