Twist And Shout
By FirstDown PlayBook on Jun 23, 2015

fdpb-wide_400x100Everyone likes to block punts. It’s one of the more explosive plays in football. It is every bit as deflating for the team that is punting as an interception or fumble.  The challenge for the coach in charge of the Punt Return team these days is that he has to prepare for at least two types of Punt teams.

There is the traditional Spread Punt formation and scheme that still remains the staple of the NFL, but a majority of High Schools and Colleges these days have gravitated to the Shield Punt formation. This scheme features big splits by the front line with three protectors in the back that “shield” the Punter and block point. There is also the Rugby punt that is growing in popularity as many kids are growing up playing soccer and have become skilled at punting the ball on the move.

Today we want to focus primarily on defending (or blocking) the Spread Punt and in some cases the Shield Punt depending on their protection scheme. We are going to explain a simple technique that is often misunderstood when it comes to freeing up a rusher to the block point.


The “Twist” technique is obviously not used exclusively for rushing the punt. This technique is executed exactly the same way when two Defensive Lineman rush a QB. The biggest mistake that young coaches make when they teach a twist as a punt block technique is that they teach the two rushers to trade gaps. This is playing into the hands of the protection.

In this diagram if the Mike and Nose switch A gap responsibility then the protectors will just trade them off. Yes, you might confuse the protectors every now and then but normally the Snapper and two Guards will communicate the twist and use zone principles to pick it up.

This is why the proper way to teach the twist is to get two rushers in the SAME gap. In order to do this you need to designate one rusher as a Penetrator and the other rusher as a Looper. In the drawing above the MLB is the Penetrator and the Nose is the Looper.

The Penetrator (Mike) will attack the Snapper’s hip and his job is to react to the Long Snapper. If the Snapper works towards the Mike then the Penetrator will pick the Snapper as he tries to work this direction. The Snapper is more than likely trying to track the Nose as he loops around. The Looper should wrap as tightly as possible and get going to the block point. After the Mike Picks the Snapper he should continue to the block point also.

If the Snapper initially works to the Nose then the Mike LB will chase the Snapper’s hip. This is where most twists get screwed up. The Mike LB does not want to cross the Snapper’s face if he works away. The Mike LB wants to use a “ricochet” technique off of the Snapper’s hip and stay in the front side A gap. This should free him up to the block point.

This allows your twist to be effective regardless of which way the Punt protection is turning. However, it is still a good idea to study the protection scheme for tendencies. If the Snapper always protects to his right or his left then your job just got a lot easier. Normally you want your Penetrator away from the direction that the Snapper turns. This is why good Defensive Line Coaches and Special Teams Coaches spend a ton of time studying the Center/Snapper for protection tendencies.

We have only used the Snapper and Guards for our example in this diagram. Any twist should be executed with this principle in mind. The rules hold true if it was a Guard and Tackle that you were executing the twist on also.

So as we mentioned, there may not be as many Spread Punt teams out there but when you run into one this is something to keep in mind. If you are a Defensive Line coach you should be using this on a daily basis for pass rush. Rushing the Shield Punt? We will save that one for another day so stay tuned!
Want more Special Teams scheme and technique help? There’s a ton more where this came from.

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