New kickoff rules you need to know about in college football


Kickoffs are exciting, fun and arguably the most action-packed part of the game. Players speed down the field like missiles released from F-16s in search of the return men. It’s breathtaking for us but also dangerous for the players.

Field position in the SEC is of utmost importance because of our dominant defenses. It’s just hard to put together an 80- to 90-yard drive in this conference. And coaches know that and will game plan for it.

But college coaches will now have to game plan for the new kickoff rules.

NCAA Football Rules Committee moved kickoffs to the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line, and touchbacks will now be brought out to the 25 instead of the 20. Also, the kickoff team cannot line up behind the 30 for a running start, either.

The goal is to cut down on the number of injuries by reducing kick returns.

“One view was the receiving team will now be a little quicker to say, ‘I’ll just take a knee and take it to the 25,'” said Steve Shaw, head of SEC officials. “But in talking to some of the special teams coaches in the spring, those that have really good kickers and good coverage will be tempted now to sky kick it and see if they can pin them in. The dynamics of how those rules come together will be intriguing to watch.”

In addition to the larger yardage change, there’s a change in onside kicks. The kickoff team must wait until the ball bounces twice before it can hit an opposing player.

Three players – Tre Mason, Andre Debose and Dennis Johnson – are likely bummed at this decision, as they might not get a chance to do as much damage in the return game this season.

We’ll just have to wait to see how coaches react to the changes and the in-game decision-making that goes along with them.

However, NFL data has shown it did reduce the number of head injuries after the league moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 last year. Data also showed that touchbacks skyrocketed from 16 percent to 43.5 percent, and only 53.4 percent of kickoffs were returned last year, down from 80.1 percent in 2010.

We’ll have to wait and see what effect it will have on the college game, but it looks like we’ll have less of these:



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  • football is a “contact” sport!! enough said!!!

  • I believe it is good for the Players!

  • From what I read the onsides kick rules limits the KICKING team to no-touching til after two bounces–the opposing, or receiving team can still touch after one bounce or anytime, actually. I think these new rules are unnecessary, but watching the strategies of the kicking teams on kickoffs will be interesting.

    Another interesting note I read, although can’t confirm: although the kicker will be kicking the ball from the 35, the kicking team’s players will actually line up at the 30. Is this right?

  • Fewer injuries. Less exciting football games. Good tradeoff? The fan in me says no. The person with compassion says yes. Touchbacks are really boring though. Maybe instead of creating a less exciting game, the NCAA (and the NFL) should implement more penalties and maybe coaches should teach proper tackling and hitting techniques. That’s bound to reduce injuries more than making dumb decisions that take away one of the most exciting plays in football.

  • Why not just declare a winner after the opening coin toss?

  • Good for injuries, bad for fans. Not impressed.

  • You mean they didn’t extend the red zone by 5 or 10 yards too? Seems as though the redzone should be at about 40 yard line this year seeing as how it used to be the 10, then it was 15, and now it’s 20.

  • Why not just eliminate tackling and play flag football. Why even have a kickoff? Might as well just start every offensive series at the 25 yard line and eliminate kickoffs. Whats the difference of injury risk from punt coverage. This rule simply reduces the occurrence of an exciting aspect of the game. A kick off return will now be a rare occurrence but the risk of injury will be the same on any return. All they have done is reduce an exciting aspect of the game and lessened the length of the field to 75 yards. Silly rules, that is what fair catch signals are for. Don’t think the fans are going to be to excited with a standard touchback every kickoff. Why would any team even risk a return when their kicker can simply kick the ball out of play. Kickoff returns should be obligatory and touchbacks should be for exceptional kicks and kickoff coverage.This concept will now be for hang time and shorter kicks that would seem to be even more injury prone.The strategy will now be to force the return man to field the ball inside the 10.The gunners will still be coming.Seems like the objective may be to lessen injury but in reality it only diminishes the Game by lessening the occurrence of an exciting aspect of the sport. The same risk of injury will still be there under the new rules.

    • The fair catch is there to protect players just like this new rule. Yes, the new rule is meant to encourage KRs to take the touchback and also reduce the risk of a lot of injuries on the play. If the touchback rate increased by almost 30% like it did in the NFL, there will be MUCH less chance for injuries. I don’t see how you think it would be the same.

      • Same as limiting a Boxing match to one round to reduce the potential for injury. At least we agree that this is diminishing a critical aspect of the game.The Kick off game will evolve to encourage deep returns as opposed to first down at the 25.The kicking game will now be concentrated on placing the kickoff within the 10 yard line at the corner. How many fair catches are we going to see within the 10? This rule can be seen as increasing both touchbacks and returns as the kicking game evolves to the new rule. Special Teams will strive to beat the touchback giveaway at the 25.Changing the lengths of the field won’t accomplish anything when coach’s and kickers figure out how to force a return. Most will simply accept the touchback at first until they learn how to exploit or develop the kicking game.All kickoffs will now be shallow to the corners and the downfield coverage will be to the corner unless you would rather accept the touchback.The kicking game will evolve but the risk of injury will be the same. I am willing to bet that the NFL kickoff game will evolve as well.

  • I think you will see a reduction in injurys at first but it will only be temporary…soon you will see kickers trying to get more air under their kicks and place them at the 10 yard line. Then the same violent collisions will be occurring again. All this is really doing is changing the strategy of the kick off. Protecting the players is a good thing but all this is doing is taking some of the excitement out of the game. Kickoffs provide a chance for the whole stadium to stand and scream throughout the the games. “Goooooo Dawgs, sic em! woof woof” may lose a little bark when the other team isnt attempting a runback. And that is a damn shame.

  • “Andrew Debose”