A gunner in football is a special teams player that is responsible for tackling punt and kick returners. This position is only used on special teams, though they can be crucial in terms of field position throughout the game.
On punt coverage you will find there are two gunners lined up near the sideline. On punts, gunners are the only players that are allowed to cross the line of scrimmage before the punt occurs.
Once the ball is snapped the gunners will attempt to get downfield so they can tackle the punt returner, or get the balls themselves.
There will be defenders assigned to block the gunners from getting down the field. This means the gunners will have to fight through these blocks in order to get to the ball.
If the gunner themselves gets the ball then the opposing team will start from the location of the field in which the gunner possessed the ball.
Gunners also play kickoff coverage and much like a punt return they line up near the sideline. There are blockers they must get through on a kick return though these blockers are much further down the field than a punt.
Gunners are typically the fastest players on the kickoff team which often means they have the first shot at the returner.
Speed is an incredibly important attribute when it comes to playing the gunner position. Gunners are always fast players due to the necessity of getting down the field quickly.
In order to tackle the opposing team close to their endzone speed is a necessity. This attribute applies to both punts and kickoff.
Grit is another attribute that is needed when playing the gunner position. Playing special teams is never glamorous and for gunners it can be quite physical. On many punts a gunner will have to work through two different blockers in order to make it to the returner.
These battles with the blockers are often very physical. To play this position each game requires a certain amount of toughness that not all players have.
Though not incredibly important it is helpful to have good hands as a gunner. The main reason for this is to not allow the ball into the endzone. A ball in the endzone results in a touchback.
In order to not allow the opposing team to start at their twenty gunners are often tasked with possessing the ball before it reaches the end zone.
Due to the speed of punts and the unpredictable bounces, it can be difficult to catch the ball. This is why good hand-eye coordination is a benefit at this position.
The build of a gunner is usually a taller lean player with good strength. The height and lower weight of the player allow them to fight off blocks with their reach as well as keeps them light enough to move at a good speed.
Strength is also important because playing the gunner position involves a lot of hand fighting. You will find the build of a gunner is often similar to wide receivers or safeties.
On a punt, there are usually two gunners on the field. Each will be lined up near the sideline in the same way that a wide receiver lines up. The players attempting to block the gunner will line up right in front of them similar to a corner playing press coverage.
On kickoffs, gunners will line up again near the sideline. The gunner is the widest player on either side on the formation.
We hope you have enjoyed this guide to understanding the gunner position in football if you have any more questions regarding this position please be sure to reach out. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.