Special Teams Analysis: In the Blink of an Eye

As you know we Duck fans did not have much to cheer for when it came to kickoff returns for touchdowns this year, or kick off returns in general.  It is very frustrating when we have such explosive players back there such as De’Anthony Thomas.  Hopefully, De’Anthony’s 94-yard return for a touchdown in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will give us something to build on for the upcoming season.  Lets take a closer look at how the play went down. 

First and foremost we must give respect to the K-State kicker for kicking the perfect kick.  If you look at the picture above you can see how the ball was placed deep and towards the sideline giving the advantage to the kick-off team as soon as the play started.  Most of the time in this situation the returner would have just taken his loss and stepped out of bounds, but Thomas had other plans.  The sideline kick takes away one of the directions the returner can run and the sideline becomes the 12th defender.  The gunners on the far side of the field can then begin to close in from the far side while the others just stay in their lanes and trap the runner. 

The picture above shows the three key blocks that set up the entire play.  The two blocks at the bottom of the screen seal the defenders to the outside and the player above them pins his man to the inside.  These three blocks create a small window of opportunity for Thomas.  In this case Thomas is able to use his blazing speed to burst through the running lane created by his blockers. 

As I mentioned above, the gunners on the far side of the field for K-State will stayed in their lane and squeezed in from the wide side of the field.  Even with this advantage, once the defenders begin to squeeze in they must take the proper angles.  In the picture above you can see two defenders who are attacking from the far side of the field, but they’ve misjudged De’Anthony’s speed and are now trying to recover and have a bad angle to make the play.  This could be from poor technique, but most likely they’ve misjudged the speed of Thomas.  Either way, this gives Thomas more room to gain speed and keep his eyes in front of him in order to see what his next move needs to be. 

This picture above shows what speed, quickness and agility are all about when the kicker tries to make an open field tackle on the “Black Mamba” as DAT slithers around him quickly and effortlessly.  The down field blocking is another key to victory in any explosive play.  I have always been told that the immediate blocks make the play, but the blocking down the field is what scores the touchdowns. 

The picture above says it all as Thomas leans across the goal line.  I apologize for the limited coverage on kick off returns, but when we only have one touchdown from kickoff returns and average 20 yards a return there is not as much to study.  I understand not too many people want to give us a chance for a return, but when given the opportunity we need to make the most of it.  We need to see more explosive plays from the Special Teams in the upcoming seasons. 

We know the offense is powerful and the defense is stepping in the right direction, but we need more from our special teams.  The kickoff return for a touchdown can be one of the most electrifying plays in any sport and we have the talent here to do it.  The whole play took a total of 12 seconds and the momentum swung in  favor of the Ducks for the rest of the game.  Now just imagine how lethal we could be if we could incorporate more plays like this into our game plan. 

I may be in Texas, but like you…”Oh how we love to learn about our Beloved Ducks!”

Todd Moore

Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com

Amarillo, Texas

Top Photo from Video

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Todd Moore

Todd Moore

Todd (Football Analyst) is a former high school defensive coordinator and current administrator in education. He is a football enthusiast of all levels and loves to talk ball to anyone who will listen. He has coached in a spread offense and while coordinating defense used a 4-3 and odd stack. He has coached the offensive line, wide receivers, linebackers and safeties. Todd currently reside in the great state of Texas with his wife and two beautiful daughters.

  • Real nice Todd, I believe things will be a whale of a lot different this year. Go Ducks!

  • I tend to be more conservative when it comes to Special Teams. My main concerns are FG kicking accuracy and K/O and Punt coverage. If we field the ball and get good field position with our kickoffs, then I am happy.

    • hokieduck

      Agree, plus the Ducks need to get some air under their kicking generally. Hopefully, the additions of Dylan Ausherman P and Matt Wogan K will finally bring the kicking game out of being a liability and into it being a weapon.

      • joadsta

        Well, Jackson Rice did an excellent job with punting. It was just our FG kicking that was a liability. Definitely need to get some consistency there. With new blood on the roster, I see Maldonado taking a backseat this upcoming season.

        • hokieduck

          Rice had a good year in 2011, not so much last year. But you are correct that it is in FGs and Kickoffs where we really need help. I mean no disrespect to Maldonado, but the Ducks had a legitimate chance to go to the NCG in both 2011 and 2012 but for one highly makable FG missed in one game each year. Bring on Wogan.

          • hokieduck

            And I feel like a real jerk saying that. Maldonado is a good kid and I am sure he did his best. Being a kicker is such a difficult postion.

        • RonB

          Rice did very well last year in pinning the opponents back inside their own 20. While he didn’t have the high average he enjoyed the previous year, he did continue to pin them back inside their 20. I’ll take that any day.

  • Micki B

    Thanks for bringing this up, Todd! Whenever I feel blue I just watch the opening of the Fiesta Bowl and 7 seconds later I’m walking on air again. Seriously, I recently broke my elbow and was in pretty severe pain, but watching that opening touchdown a few times had me cackling and laughing and wishing i could clap.

    Hey, and let’s not forget that wonderful/scary return against Colorado. Not that I want to see DeAnthony running backwards any time soon again, but that was a crazy, brilliant run.

  • Don’t expect to see many more TD’s this year with the new rule changes.

  • I actually am not to sad with out KR team; opportunities were down, directional kicking was used a lot and our defense did reduce the number of KO’s we faced by just taking the ball away.

    Our special teams have a great chance to impact a game and I would love to see a couple first half onside kicks; just to keep the other team off balance!!

  • SOD

    Every time I start feeling down about our lack of production on KO returns, I console myself with the fact that we only return a KO when the other team has scored. If we aren’t returning many, they aren’t scoring much. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll take that trade off. :)