clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Examining Tennessee's punt coverage: with video and soothing anti-emetic soundtrack!

Tennessee ranks 108th in the nation in net punting with an average of 29.29 yards per punt. Of course, this is primarily due to the fact that we've given up a 77 yard return to Cal's DeSean Jackson and an 83 yard return to Florida's Brandon James in only three games.

You know what they say about quarterbacks? That if you have two of them you really have none? Well, last I heard Tennessee has something like eight coaches responsible for special teams. Now I know next to nothing about punt coverage, but I figure, what's one more cook in the kitchen?

There are some decent articles on punt coverage strategy, so go read up, but here's an important bit (caveat, they're talking about the NFL rules, but I don't know that this part is any different for college):

Other than the punter and the snapper, the ends are the most important players on a punt coverage team. Variously called gunners, bullets, fliers or hawks, they are the only players on that unit who can run downfield before the ball is punted. So they are double-teamed, usually by a couple of defensive backs who try to jam the ends at the line of scrimmage and cut off their paths to the punt returner. As ends, they are eligible pass receivers. But unlike a regular scrimmage play, where contact is allowed only within the first five yards, the ends can be molested all the way downfield.
Okay, so next to the snapper and the punter, the gunners are the most important. So let's have a look to see if we can figure out what went wrong on what are probably the two worst plays of the season so far. Because this could potentially be quite traumatic for Vol fans, I decided to add some soothing music in hopes that it will have an anti-emetic effect. First, DeSean Jackson:

Feed readers, click through if you don't see the videos.

So decent execution with horrible tackling and a good plan by Cal for once Jackson makes a couple of people miss. And now, Brandon James:

Conclusion? What do y'all think? Could it be just as simple as gunners beating defenders at the line, then slowing down as they get closer to the returner so that they're not as susceptible to jukes? Does anyone with more knowledge of this stuff see something wrong with the scheme? Leave your thoughts below, and feel free to leave a comment on the videos themselves.