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'Coach': KU players not physical enough during Oklahoma's 100-yard kickoff return
For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This is the second "Breakdown" blog this week, with this one focusing on Roy Finch's 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown against Kansas last week. (The "Breakdown" blog on Justin Brown's 90-yard punt return was posted Thursday.)
Before looking at the film, Coach says there's one main truth when it comes to the kickoff team.
"The kickoff team, from the beginning of football until the end of football is always going to be about the players that you have on it — from your kicker to the 10 guys you have running down there," Coach says. "You can draw up every fancy scheme and place the ball on the right hash, the left hash, in the middle, whatever you want to do. But it will always, until the end of football, be about the guys you have running down there to make the play."
One of KU's mistakes, Coach says, comes early.
Coach says that during the first 20 yards of sprinting to cover a kickoff, one of the main objectives for KU's players should be trying to avoid blockers to the blockers' "butt side."
The reason for this is simple: KU's guys are trying to not get blocked to the lanes that the Sooners want them to be blocked into. By going to the butt side, KU's players will be going the opposite way of where the Sooners want them to go.
We see when Finch catches the ball that KU's players have not succeeded in getting to the "butt side" very well.
That's especially evident at the bottom of the screen, where KU's Nick Sizemore (No. 45) and Tyler Hunt (No. 49) are blocked toward the side of the field closest to us.
"Those guys should both be on the other side of the Oklahoma players, who are pinning them to the field (the side of the field away from the returner). Them getting pinned to the field causes No. 47 (Brandon Bourbon) to be pinned to the field."
Coach also says KU's Josh Ford (No. 8 above) doesn't do a good job, either.
On this play, Ford's responsibility is to "fold" behind blocks to make a tackle.
"Basically, you send seven guys to the ball, then maybe you have two or three guys that are still going to the ball, but sometimes they motor down five or eight yards behind it, so they're more like a linebacker," Coach says. "The front guys take up more blocks, then your fold players can jump in there and make the play after some of the other blockers have been taken up.
"He should technically motor his feet down and 'fold' a little bit sooner right there. He knows he's not going to be able to run and make the play on the 15-yard line right there. But 'fold' underneath those blocks (blue arrow below) and try to make the play on about the 25-yard line."
Coach says the other major failing for KU comes when its players are approaching blockers.
If you're one of the first men down, Coach says it's important to 1) stay in your lane as long as possible, and 2) be physical when you get to the block zone.
On this play, the Jayhawks aren't physical enough.
Coach singles out two players: Ray Mitchell (No. 26) and Michael Reynolds (No. 55).
As we can see at the 20-second mark of the video, Mitchell gets knocked off his feet — "absolutely destroyed" as Coach describes it — by OU's Tyler Fields.
Reynolds, meanwhile, slows down to contact after sprinting the entire length of the field and allows himself to be blocked.
"Those guys need to continue to sprint and try to run through those two Oklahoma blockers," Coach says. "Don't slow your feet down. Run through those guys, and blow those guys up back into the return man."
By not moving those blockers, Reynolds and Mitchell not only are putting themselves out of position for a tackle, they're also making it tougher on their "fold" players, as Finch can now choose from more openings.
Those blocks on Mitchell and Reynolds, along with more blocks from OU players to the boundary at the top of the screen, result in a huge lane for Finch.
"Those Oklahoma blockers are doing an excellent job right there," Coach says. "Oklahoma's got good players on their kickoff return team. They've got a solid scheme. It's not a scheme that is very difficult to see what they're trying to do.
"Basically, they're just whipping KU right here."