Assembling An Effective Punt Team In Football

Written By: Mike Pina
Updated: February 12, 2024

To have good special teams, you truly need some special guys to be effective in all your unit. By unique, I do not mean having the most talented football players out there. What I mean by unique is you need guys who are willing to do the dirty work. They have to love what they do and do their job to the best of their ability.

A punt team is one of the most important special teams, as it determines the other team’s offensive starting field position. A poor or blocked punt can result in a higher-scoring chance for the opposing team. It’s essential to have a clean long-snapper/punter exchange, deep kick by the punter, and limit a return from the opponent’s return, man.

If you get your players to buy into your special team’s units, you will be successful. The great thing about punt is that it takes many different skill sets and forces them to work in unison. Players from the offense, defense, and specialists may end up on the punt team.

5 Objectives Of The Punt Team

Protect The Punter

The first objective of the punt team is to protect the punter. Teams are often punting because they’re backed up into their zone. If a punt gets blocked, it will completely change the field position and put that team at a disadvantage.

This often leads to points scored by the other team due to the excellent field position.

Handle The Ball Effectively

Here are the numbers that a punt team should aim for when the ball is snapped:

  • Snap to catch = less than 1 second
  • Catch to kick = less than 1.4 seconds
  • Total get-off time ( time of snap and kick) = less than 2.4 seconds
  • Hang time of kick = more than 4 seconds

Create Field Position

The main goal of the punt team is to create a great field position for their defense. Force the offense to drive down the field and earn their points. This often is very hard to do against a good defense.

Here are some ways the punt team can create field position. First, down the ball inside the 10-yard line. Second, when backed up, punt and win the ball past the 50-yard line.

Keep The Opponent’s Return Average Under 3 Yards

Covering a punt and making sure the returner gets no yards is crucial in the punt game. Often, the returner will catch the football or at least try to gain yards. It’s our job to make sure he doesn’t gain any yards.

Net Punt Average Of 34+ yards

This should be the target of flipping the field when punting in high school. At least 30-40 yards is the target, allowing the coach to feel confident about punting.

After the offense does not succeed in getting the first down and is forced to punt, the offense must hustle their tails off the field. Everyone on the field must be sprinting off the field so that the punt team can run out onto the field and get set up.

Once everyone is ready, the long snapper will put his hands on the ball. The best way to describe how the long snapper should hold the ball is by gripping the laces with his right hand, like throwing the ball with his dominant hand. His off-hand should have his middle finger splitting the seam of the ball.

The snappers off-hand should also be putting pressure on the ball into the ground.

Here the snapper stays low and shoots his hips back as he finishes the snap.

Punt Team Alignments

We’re going to describe the popular “shield” formation in this article. This method has proven to be the most effective form of a punt, as it allows 5-6 players to get down the field. The middle shield will look at the sideline to the special team’s coordinator to receive a protection call.

  • Guards: 3 yards away from the snapper
  • Tackles: 3 yards away from the guards
  • Ends: 3 yards away from the tackles
  • SHIELD: toes at 7.5 yards from the ball
  • Punter: toes at 14 yards

You can then have calls to determine the blocking assignment and location of the football. For example “Rickey” = right, “Lucy” = left, and “Mandy” = base out.

Interior Stance

Below are key points for punt team members on how they should line to generate the most power.

  • 2-point stance that is shoulder-width apart
  • Slightly staggered feet of the direction you will be blocking to back (Rickey – left foot and Lucy – left foot). Most of your weight should be on your opposite foot
  • Good bend in the knees with hands on your thighs
  • Keep your head up
  • Stop the defender’s rush and beat the ball to the returner!!

Shield Stance

The shield stance should present the same balance and posture, however, they need to be able to absorb impact from free-released rushers. Here are some key points for players in the shield stance:

  • 2-Point stance- shoulder-width apart
  • Good bend in knees with hands on your thighs
  • Keep your head up
  • Withstand the rush

Release And Blocking Technique

When the ball is snapped, the shield must step up and in to close the distance between the left shield and right shield, but not stepping too close to one another and cutting each other off.

After stepping a half yard up and in, the shield will then set themselves up in a solid position – knees bent, butt down, head up, arms ready to strike as they keep their feet moving by taking short choppy steps.

This is a “man-to-zone protection scheme”, so the shield personnel may have to block more than one rusher in their area.

It is essential that the shield thinks big, as they punch with their hands inside. Most importantly, do not drop your helmet in collision with the rushers.

Base Cadence

The cadence can be based on three people’s names, Ricky, Lucy, and Mindy. Ricky and Lucy let you know that ten possible rushers are in the box. This means that a front-side and backside technique is needed.

A Mindy call alerts you to let you know that there are nine or fewer rushers in the box. Both sides will use a front-side technique here.

The middle shield will make the protection call ( Ricky, Lucy, Mindy) and the play clock call. He will say the time remaining on the play clock followed by a “set” call. The set call is an indicator to the snapper to snap the ball. He does not have to snap the ball right away, but it should be within 3 seconds of the set call.

An example of the cadence would be “Ricky, Ricky, T-12, SET.”

Box Count

punt team in football

The box extends from the outside shoulder of the ends to 5 yards. The special teams’ coordinator will identify the number of possible rushers with a name call.

How Far Away Is The Punter Away From The Long Snapper?

A: The toes of the punter are 14 yards away from the long snapper.

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Keep Learning

The punt team is one of the most important special teams. They are in charge of pinning the opposing team in their own territory. It’s important that every coach on the staff takes special teams seriously, as it could be the difference between winning and losing games.

If you’re interested in learning more about special teams, we recommend you check out our Ultimate Football Guide. It will help you drastically improve your Football IQ.

More special teams articles to help you learn:

Onside Kick In Football: Everything You Need To Know

What Is A Punt In American Football

How To Install A Kick Return Team

The Fair Catch Rule Explained

Why Do Players Take A Knee On Kickoff?

Fair Catch On a Kickoff Explained

I mentioned it earlier in the blog, but it takes special players to be good on special teams. Get your players to buy into the system and make them aware of special teams’ importance.

If you get them to believe in you as a special teams coordinator, they will do anything you ask of them. Make players earn the right to be on the punt team. It’s a privilege. Plain and simple.

About the author 

Mike Pina

Mike Pina is the co-founder of QB Velocity, one of the top football training programs in New England. Mike currently coaches the running backs at Worcester Polytech Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts.