The squib kick is a type of kickoff play where the kicker strikes the ball at a specific angle, so that it bounces along the ground and makes it difficult for the kick receiver to cleanly catch the ball and return it. Typically, the kicker will use the inside arch of the foot to strike the top of the football as it sits on the kickoff stand. This sends the ball tumbling end over end along the ground, eliminating any hang time and ideally generating confusion among the return team as to who will field the ball and who will block. The squib kick is effective for preventing a fast, agile kick returner from making a big play and gaining a large chunk of yardage during the return.
The onside kick is also a tactical trick play, intended for situations where the kicking team wants to get the ball back immediately, rather than letting the other team receive it. The onside kick is set up to allow the kicker’s team a chance to grab the ball, providing two conditions are met: the ball has traveled 10 yards, and that kicking team has not touched the ball at any point before it goes those 10 yards. The onside kick is a low-percentage play with a small chance of success, but if successfully implemented, it can allow the kicking team to close a large deficit or to keep the ball away from a fast-paced offense. The kicker has the option to use a squib-like bouncer or to kick it up in a shallow arch to give a teammate an opportunity to cleanly catch it.
While the kicker can use a squib-like kick during an onside kick, generally most situations call for a kick in the air during onside kicks. Balls bouncing along the turf are extremely unpredictable, and the onside kick already contains numerous variables that are difficult to predict. For optimal effectiveness, the squib kick can be used sparingly for teams that face either an accomplished kick returner, or a returner that is demonstrably inexperienced with an inability to cleanly field the ball. Either case sets up a decent mismatch for the kicking team. The onside kick is a tactical play best suited for teams that are down by at least two possessions, have just scored and have limited time left to score again.
Special Teams Strength
For either type of kick, the skill level of the team that takes the field with the kicker goes a long way to determining the success or failure of the play. The onside kick requires players with an excellent ability to catch the football in the air or off the ground. Often, the onside kick team will include the best receivers and tight ends on the roster, and communication between the kicker and the other players is crucial. For the squib kick, good blockers who are experienced with creating misdirection will help reinforce the confusion of where the ball is kicked and where it bounces along the way. The more space that the blockers can create, the more likely the ball will bounce deep into the opponent’s territory.