Thoughts on kick offs and punts

Submitted by docwhoblocked on November 19th, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Mod Edit: Bumped to diaries for effort. [zl]

My brother and I have griped for several seasons now about the number of punts that seem to drop and roll for extra yards on on us.  He has suggested that we actually put one man deep and another 15-20 yards further up to catch the short ones before they can bounce and roll.  So I went to the stats and checked out the kicking game and made a .......chart? 





kick offs



kick off returns



Kick off average yds



kick off average return yds



kick off net yards



punt average yds



Punt returns average yds



Net yds/punt



# of punts



# of punt returns




Our opponents punted to us 48 times and we returned punts only 13 times (27%).   Seems we should have had more returns.  Punts out of bounds or into the end zone could account for fewer punt returns. Wouldn't those into the end zone result in reduced net yards/punt for our opponents?  This does not seem to be the case. Our opponents have averaged 42.4 yards per punt and have net of 39.3.  We have a average punt of 41.6 and our net is 36.3.  The punt average difference is less than one yard but the net yards per punt were 3 yards in favor of our opponents.

Maybe there have been more fair catches by our returners (or maybe they are not catching the ball and it is dropping and rolling for extra yards).  Short of re-watching all the games and actually counting these different scenarios I am not sure I can come up with an answer.  (Maybe there is another data base out there somewhere with the details.  I just looked at the posted stats at the U of M site.) 

I did look anther data set.  It was in the form of a ………


This chart of NFL expected points by first down starting position.  This suggests that it is particularly important not to allow the drop and roll type kick when the opponent is pinned back as the yards lost in field position are even more important since it costs you points. (Duh!)

It is also interesting to look at the kick off data.  We have kicked off 60 times and our opponents have returned it 35 times (58.3%).

They kicked off to us 44 times and we returned it 34 times (77.4%) The kickoffs are averaging about 60 yards for both us and our opponents and returns are averaging about 23 yards per return for both us and our opponents.  Our net is better and I assume that is because Wile is kicking it out of or deep enough and high enough into the end zone that it is tough to return or maybe they are just smart enough not to return it.  Looking at these numbers the average benefit for returning a kick off looks like it would only be about 3 yards beyond the 25.  (The average kick goes from the 35, 60 yards to the 5 and we return it to the 27 on average.)  You can get that for free almost every time without the risk of a fumble or injury to a good returner.  Perhaps we should never return a kick off out of the end zone and only return those kicks that are short of the 5 yard line since any beyond that will roll into the end zone.  The NFL chart above also suggests that the extra yards gained say out to the 35 or so by running it back do not put you into much better position to score points vs. the 25.  (My eyeball says you would gain less than ½ point even if you could reliably make the 35 yard line instead of the 25 which only the best punt returner can do on average.)

My brother made the following observation-

"There may be a large cost/benefit factor favoring the risk of the kick off return. Let’s say you always take the touch back. Call it 20 kicks. Then let’s say you always run it out. On 19 you end up on the 18. That’s a negative 133 yards. On the 20th you run it out for a TD. Would you trade the 19 cases of -7 in field position for the one TD? I guess it depends upon whether the TD is against ND or OSU or MSU or not."

I guess this is what the NCAA wanted with the rule change.  Maybe we are trying to return too many kickoffs. (An AP article on the kick off rule change notes the following..."Spotting the ball at the 25 should discourage .... risk-taking by the college kids. From 5 yards deep, it’ll take a 30-yard return to get to the 25. The top kick returner in the country, Purdue’s Raheem Mostert, averaged 33.48 yards per return. Seven others averaged more than 30 per return". )




Mr. Yost

November 19th, 2012 at 7:58 PM ^

Sorry. Too much, but seems like some good info.

I have a couple gripes. One, we never go for a punt block...EVER. Teams know they can release down field because we're never coming after the punt. Two, if we're not going to punt block...put two guys back there almost like a kickoff.

In the modern days of rugby punting...we still call a 1990's punt return EVERY time.

I think we'll break a kick return eventually, but we've gotten worse as the season has gone along.


November 19th, 2012 at 8:47 PM ^

I agree 100% on the punts dropping. I hate seeing a punt roll 20 or so yards and pinning us deep. When it comes to returning the punt I like seeing a fair catch rather than someone trying to make something out of nothing it's a lot more safe. That's one thing I couldn't stand about when Rich Rod was coaching I thought we had a lot of stupid turnovers because players tried to be a hero and quickly became a zero by mishandling a punt instead of just calling the fair catch. I don't think there should be a fair catch everytime but sometimes it's just better.