How To Install A Kick Return Team

Written By: Mike Pina
Updated: March 6, 2024

Special teams can make or break the game. Especially when it comes to kick returns in football. Kick return may be tough on new players because the kickoff team is getting a running start and is coming full speed downfield. Still, managing leverage and body position will help effectively block the kickoff players.

A great kick return can instantly get 6 points and swing the game’s momentum. On the other hand, a lousy kick return may disadvantage your offense and give the opposing defense momentum.

kick return in football

Kick Return

Kick return is one of the most important special team units. It’s important for teams to have their fastest player at the kick returner position, as they will be able to gain as many yards as possible to give their offense good field position.

The ultimate goal of the kick return team is to score a kick return touchdown. Kickoff returns may start at the goal line, in the end zone or even shorter. It’s up to the kick returner to get as many yards for his team as possible.

The opening kickoff will also help to establish the field position for the rest of the first quarter. Poor field position, and a lousy drive by the offense, could give the opponent’s punt return team in a good position to score points. This is why it’s important for kick returners to get as many yards as possible.

Kick Return Philosophy

A team philosophy for the kick return unit should rely on technique, speed, and high energy. You should install multiple direction returns that go along with numerous blocking schemes.

Kick Return Goals

When installing a kick return team, it’s important to establish goals to ensure you’re putting your offense in the best possible position to score points. Here are some ideas for goals:

  1. Field every kick cleanly
  2. Give the ball to the offense every time
  3. Average a 35-yard line starting position
  4. Penalty-free

Kick Return Positions

Now, I will get into the alignments of each position on the kick return team.

Front Line Tackles

Tackles: Align stacked with the L2 or R2 with their back foot on the +49-yard line. Their feet should be staggered in, looking at the ball with a slight knee bend. Hands should be ready to play the ball. When they drop, they will push off the front foot and gain ground with the back foot.

kick return in football

Front Line Guards

Guards: When the ball is in the middle of the field, they will split the football and hash. Their feet should be staggered in, looking at the ball with a slight knee bend. Hands should be ready to play the ball. When the ball is kicked, they will push off the front foot and gain ground with the back foot.

kick return in football

Front Line Ends

Ends: Align even between the tackles and guards, splitting the 40-yard line.
The player’s feet should be staggered in, looking at the ball with a slight knee bend. Hands should be ready to play the ball. They will push off the front foot and gain ground with the back foot when they drop.

kick return in football

Now that we’ve gone over alignment and start, let’s talk about the technique and footwork.

First thing is to make sure the ball is kicked. If it’s an onside kick, you’ll need to pounce on it.

When blocking, players must keep their feet wide and active to maintain balance and the ability to move with their target. Next, strike players on the kickoff team with your hands and your hips

All good blocks will have a punch and are at pad level. Your aiming point is inside the numbers with thumbs up and elbows in.

Adjust the angle and depth of your drop to gain leverage based on where the ball is kicked.


Fullbacks are the players that are standing directly next to the kick returner.

Align in a two-point stance staggered at a 45-degree angle towards the football. Their eyes should be on the football, and hands should be ready to play the squib/pooch kick.

Kick return in football


Stance: Align in a two-point stance in the ready position. Alignment is square to the kicker. Eyes should be on the football, and hands should be prepared to play the squib/pooch kick.

Alignments: Middle of the field on the 20-yard line.

Kick return in football

Now that we’ve gone over the stance and start of the back players, let’s take a look at their technique:

  • Have great relation to the ball and the opponent.
  • Strike with your hands and hips.
  • Sustain blocks!

Blocks are often met head-on with the fullbacks and rattlesnakes. It’s important to angle and get in the way of the defender long enough for the returner to get free.

Kick Returners

The returner will be 3 yards inside the near hash, and the returner being kicked will align 3 yards outside the hash on the -5.

If the returner fields the ball cleanly, he should get vertical immediately.

kick return team in football

The right returner is the communication leader.

  • “Me, Me” – right returner catches the ball
  • “You, You” – left returner catches the ball
  • “Short, Short”- Short kick that lands in front of the rattlesnake.

Middle Return

There are different directional returners that you may call, but we will talk about Middle return for right now.

As you can see in the pictures below, each blocker will have an assigned man on the kickoff team.

kick return blocking
Middle return: kick left
kick return blocking
Middle return: kick right

Once the ball is on the returner’s helmet height, the off returner will yell “Go…Go.. Go” to alert the fullbacks to engage in their assignments.

The returners should work to set their blocks up and understand the whole scheme.

The returner should look to secure the backside edge, then double L5 with the left fullback.

What Is Considered To Be A Good Kick Return?

A good kick return sets up the starting position for the offense to be on the -35 or better.

Is Offensive Lineman On Kick Return?

No, they are not. The reason for this is that the kickoff team is often filled with fast and quick players, so it may be tough for an offensive lineman to get hands-on with them. However, an offensive lineman is athletic enough to get the job done.

Uncover your opponent’s offensive and defensive tendencies so you can easily build a game plan.

Inside You’ll Find:

  • Strategies to pick apart defenses
  • How to identify player weaknesses
  • How to save time in your weekly breakdowns

Can You Fair Catch On a Kick Return?

Yes, when the kicker kicks a sky kick/ pooch kick, the player on the return team that it is kicked at will fair catch it.

Keep Learning

Don’t stop learning. We have created the Ultimate Football Guide so you can grow your Football IQ. Instantly become a smarter player or fan by taking this course.

Below are more special teams articles to help you learn:

Onside Kick In Football: Everything You Need To Know

What Is A Punt In American Football

Assembling An Effective Punt Team

The Fair Catch Rule Explained

Why Do Players Take A Knee On Kickoff?

Fair Catch On a Kickoff Explained

As I mentioned earlier, special teams significantly impact every football game. Having a good kick return team can benefit your team in many ways.

My suggestion to coaches is to find 11 guys who take pride in being on the kick return team. These 11 guys must stay disciplined in their assignments and be willing to lay some blocks for their teammates.

Field position is the name of the game, as you want to give your offense the best starting field position possible. The closer you are to their end zone, the easier it is to score points!

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.