Morning Conversational: How Are Special Teams Handled In Practices, Meetings?

Matt Barnes Isaiah Pryor Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Today’s Topic: How Are Special Teams Handled In Practices, Meetings?

As you know, a Buckeye generally won’t see the field on offense or defense unless he can provide for the team via special teams first.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule — like quarterbacks — but if a player wants to show that he belongs, he needs to show it on special teams first.

During a typical practice, the first few periods — of 16-20 periods on average — are generally dedicated to punt and kickoff. This means that there isn’t much time for a player to prove himself on special teams. This makes it important to stand out in every rep and every meeting.

“So we generally, on days that we practice, we’ll have a shorter meeting just to prep us for that practice, usually a 15-minute meeting,” explained special teams coordinator Matt Barnes. “Then we get a handful of practice periods to come out and execute what we put in place in the meeting room. Then the following day when we’re not in practice we usually will have a 25 to 30-minute meeting to recap the things that we did on the field.”

And who is in those meetings?

“Most of the whole team,” he said. “Sometimes your offensive and defensive lineman, and our quarterbacks aren’t generally involved in special teams, are excused and they’ll go into either the offensive line, defensive line or quarterback meeting rooms but generally the entire rest of the team is in there.”

What is the general message during those meetings?

“If you asked our players that, I’d hope their response would be that it’s all ball,” he said. “And what I mean by that is I’m not necessarily coaching the nuances of punt or kick off or special teams, but really it’s just general fundamentals of playing football.

“And I’ve tried really hard to give them clear visuals of what a particular special teams drill may do for them on special teams but also how that makes them a better wide receiver, or corner, or linebacker, or running back. Whatever it may be.”

While many see special teams as simply punt or kick returns, Barnes knows it is much more than that, and that’s what gets focused on during meetings and practices.

“Just general fundamentals of playing football,” he said. “It’s creating and avoiding contact. It’s changing direction or gaining ground based off of the particular position that you’re in. And it’s moving your feet in a power position, whether you’re making a tackle, you’re on a stalk block, you’re on a running back in pass protection, you’re a linebacker striking a blocker, it’s just general fundamentals of creating, avoiding contact, things like that.”