FDPB Welcomes Guest Blogger Taylor Mehlhaff
By FirstDown PlayBook on Mar 6, 2014

By Guest Blogger Taylor Mehlhaff 

Taylor was a 2007 first team All-American Place Kicker at the University of Wisconsin. He was a sixth round selection by the New Orleans Saints in the 2008 draft. Taylor is currently working with the Special Teams at the University of Pittsburgh.

One aspect of Special Teams that does not necessarily get overlooked, but is for sure the most under-coached, are the kickers and punters. Having specialists that you can rely on every time you send them onto the field is a huge advantage for your units. If you look at the teams who finish at the top of each conference in Special Teams categories year in and year out, you will see that those top teams, typically have an all-conference kicker and/or punter. At the high school level, if you have a guy who can consistently boot the ball into the end zone on kickoffs and make the opposing team start each drive on the 20-yard line, you have a real weapon! I’m going to share with you some ways in which you can help coach and develop your young kickers.

There are not a lot of drills to use as kickers and punters. Some kickers and punters will do “no-step” drills and “one-step” drills in an effort to gradually build into their kicking. It’s important that they do whatever works best for them! I spend ample time warming up so that when I’m ready to roll, it’s time for full kicks! One thing I learned from Ryan Longwell, who in my opinion is one of the all-time top field goal kickers in the NFL, is to mimic game like situations as close as possible. For instance, Ryan will not even attempt field goals off of the tripod holder during practice because he knows he will never attempt a field goal off of that during a game. My point is we do not kick field goals by just standing in one spot and swinging our legs, so why should we practice such an unusual movement. However, one thing that I will do is dry swings (kicks without a ball). I use my dry swings to make sure my steps are perfect and that I’m using this time to focus on everything mechanically WITHOUT a ball. From there, I move to an end line. For me, this is my progression. I now will hit about 4-5 balls down a line. I do this to again focus on my mechanics, and trust that if I do everything right mechanically; my ball should land directly down the line. You also kick down the line at the goal post. (I have attached a video oft this drill below).



After that, I’m ready to kick on the uprights. I see many kickers begin kicking on the uprights from 35-40 yards away right from the get-go, and do nothing but practice bad habits from the very beginning. We want to practice positive “muscle-memory” drills (neurological memory drills) such as dry swings. Consistency, whether it be on field goals, kickoffs, or punts, all begins with being able to duplicate the same swing over and over and over again.

For the punters, walking up and down a line while practicing your drop is the single most important drill you can do. Focus on keeping the ball at hip level in line to your kicking leg. Practice a perfectly flat drop. If done correctly, the ball should bounce straight back up to you. You can go through the entire aspect of your punt, without the actual swing. This drill should be in every punter’s warm up routine. If you have a good drop, you will always give yourself a chance as a punter!

Email: Taylor@TMKicking.com                  Website: www.TMKicking.com                    Phone: (855) TM-Kicking

Book: “Kicking for Success” (Available for download on Amazon & Smashwords.com)

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