The punter isn’t the only important player during a punt play in an American football game — although it may seem like it sometimes, especially on a bad punt. Here are some of the other key performers:
Center or snapper: This player must be accurate with his snap and deliver the ball to where the punter wants it. On most teams, he makes the blocking calls for the interior linemen, making sure no one breaks through to block the punt.
Wings: The players on both ends of the line of scrimmage, generally 1-yard deep behind the outside leg of the end or tackle. These players must block the outside rushers, but they worry more about any player breaking free inside of them.
Ends: One end stands on each side of the line of scrimmage, and they’re isolated outside the wings at least 10 to 12 yards. On some teams, these players are called gunners. Their job is to run downfield and tackle the punt returner. Often, two players block each end at the line of scrimmage in hopes of giving the punt returner more time to advance the ball.
Personal protector: The personal protector is the last line of protection for the punter. This player usually lines up 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. If five or more defensive players line up to one side of the snapper, the personal protector shifts his attention to that side and makes sure no one breaks through to block the punt.
Most coaches prefer that a fullback or safety play this position because they want someone who’s mobile enough to quickly move into a blocking position. Regardless, the personal protector must be a player who can react quickly to impending trouble and make adjustment calls for the ends and wings.
This figure shows a basic punt formation involving these players against what coaches call man coverage:
X: The center (or snapper); stands over the ball
PP: The punter’s personal protector
P: The punter
W: The wings
E: The ends, on the line of scrimmage about 10 to 12 yards away from the wings