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!”
Oregon Football Analyst for FishDuck.com
Top Photo from Video