American Football Punting and Kickoffs - A New Concept

Since mid-2003, I have tried to encourage any Football Coach to try PRACTICING an entirely different approach to punting and kickoffs. In over three and a half years, not one has even tried it yet!

Every year, around 30,000 high school football teams each play about ten games and in each game there are around ten combined punts and kickoffs. Adding in College and Pro teams, that is around 5 million kicks every year, so there have been hundreds of millions of such kicks made in actual games in recent decades! Yet, I am not aware that even once, anyone has tried the following!

It is important to note that IF any player on the receiving team TOUCHES the ball on a punt, the ball becomes live and can be recovered by the kicking team. On kickoffs, it actually does not even need to be touched but must go at least 10 yards. These are basic rules of football!

So my suggestion is to punt or kick off the ball, but instead of attempting to kick it high in the air (for distance), I see value in doing the same but to kick/punt it almost horizontally. The idea is that the ball never rises to higher than about eight feet high. True, the total distance would not be as great as for a high kick. But there seem to be many new advantages!

This ball is kicked as hard as the kicker/punter can kick it. It may also make sense for the kicker kick the ball in the center or even slightly above the center of the ball.

There are several new possibilities. First, the linemen on the receiving team, who are never expecting to TOUCH the ball might either get hit by the ball or might reach out to try to catch the nearby ball. Since the ball should have TOPSPIN, and never flying very high, there should be unexpected BOUNCES of the ball off the field. A good punter might manage to get it to travel really fast but to first hit the ground just a few feet in front of the opposing linemen. The idea is that the ball will BOUNCE in some unexpected direction, where it might then be touched and then be a live ball for anyone to recover. The generally ineffective on-side kick tries to accomplish this but with a very slow moving ball, The success of recovering this FAST moving ball, which is bouncing irregularly, may be much better.

That is only one out of the four of the possibilities that is good for the receiving team! I suspect that this method of kickoffs would result so often in the kicking team recovering, that the receiving team might choose to avoid having any Linemen even standing in front of where the ball is teed up. In this case, a traditional on-side kick might make sense, where the kicking team would know where the ball was about to go, and the receiving team would INTENTIONALLY not have anyone near there!

Still regarding kickoffs: Use a tee but turn it SIDEWAYS and have a teammate HOLD the tip of the ball so that it starts out at a 45° angle sideways. When that ball is then kicked FLAT, the two pointed ends of the ball would be spinning. At some point, when either end hit the ground, the laws of Physics make clear that the ball WILL kick off to one side or the other! Even trying to catch such an oddly spinning ball is very difficult.

This is a second general concept which I feel that Coaches should consider doing. I would think it might be especially helpful to a team which is so outmatched in a specific game that they EXPECT to lose 63-0. IF a few of these oddly spinning kicks might be recovered, it might minimize the amount of time the other team had the ball!

In any case, it seems to me that anyone who hopes to become the kicker for any High School, College or Professional team, might consider TRYING these ideas, even BEFORE showing them to any potential Coach. It might then be possible to ASK such a Coach to have a Kickoff Return Team on a field, and then give them a few of these unsuspectedly hard-to-catch balls to try to catch. A good Coach should see that IF he had HIS Kickoff team on the field, they might easily recover balls that were clearly very hard to field properly! And you might have a job!

As to punting: I see value in having a very peculiar alignment! The Linemen who are required to be on the Line of Scrimmage, would all be off to each side. The remaining players would be back standing near the punter. Once the ball is hiked, the punter would kick very low. Notice that there would be NO ONE slowing down the onrushing opponents, so this kick has to be kicked FAST! Any rushing players who might get to the kicker would hopefully get picked up by the backs.

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Again, most of the possible outcomes are good for the kicking team!

Trying to imagine being a Coach on a team that was to receive such punts and kickoffs, I see tremendous problems! Do you put Linemen in the standard places? How do you position people who might be intended to actually receive the ball? Do you even try to rush punts? Nearly anything you do as the Receiving Coach can be taken advantage of by the Kicking Coach!

I would think that a team could PRACTICE this sort of thing against their own B team to see what seems to work best. I don't know if there is any advantage in trying to kick it off so it is only 4 feet high ten yards away or maybe it would be better to kick it a little lower so that it would be likely to first hit the ground right near those Linemen. If they have to try to reach down to try to catch it, and it might bounce first, it might be an even greater advantage to the kicking team.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 2006.

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Carl W. Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago