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New college kickoff rule will help Kentucky

(photo via Saturday Down South)

This season’s biggest college football rule change has many head coaches scratching their heads on how to adjust the special teams. The new rule will have teams kicking off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30 — moving them five yards closer. The change was made following the lead of the NFL which put a similar rule into place last year to create more touchbacks, cutting down on the number of returns and successfully reducing the number of injuries. To encourage the receiving team to take the touch back, dropping to a knee in the end zone will now bring the ball out to the 25-yard line, rather than 20 — moving them five yards closer to a score. So both the kicking and receiving team get five yards with the new rule.

A lot more strategy comes into play with the kickoff and kick return unit. Depending on your personnel and the opposing team’s return men. Do you want to give them an extra five yards by booting through the back of the end zone? Or do you do tell your kicker to take a little off and force a return with your coverage unit five yards closer?

When on the receiving end, do you field a kick deep in your own end zone and count on your lead blockers and speed of your returner to get it across the 25 yard line? Or do you automatically drop to a knee and thank the NCAA for the extra yardage?

Last season, Kentucky was 94th in the nation in kickoff returns with 952 yards, and their average of 20.3 yards per return ranked 88th in the nation. Just barely across touchback distance. (To be fair, the range for the top half of returns is around 23-yards, down to the bottom half of about 20-yards; so Kentucky isn’t being blown out in this area). However with the new rule change, if all things stay the same, it’s simple to see the Cats should always take a knee. Pick up five extra yards for doing nothing. If the opposing team wants to give it to you, take it. With the new rule their coverage team is even closer, and considering Kentucky’s return men just barely averaged a touchback with the coverage five yards farther away in 2011, their average for 2012 could be well below what that was.

But not all things are the same. The personnel factor is a big one. Depending on who is sent back deep, which team is kicking it to you, or perhaps even more importantly the situation of the game, strategy could change. Demarco Robinson is a young guy who Joker Phillips has praised as a playmaker-in-the-making. He had the opportunity to return kicks last season but didn’t make noise in the stat column. This year could be a breakout year for him, not only catching passes but returning kicks in a Randall Cobb explosive-like fashion.

Craig McIntosh will remain on kickoff duties and if Joker calls for it, continue to suppress the opponents with deep kickoffs. Considering Kentucky’s opponents averaged only 20.1 yards per return on 28 attempts, well under the new 25-yard touchback, McIntosh may want to work on keeping the ball short to make them earn those extra yards. The field is getting squeezed, so it will likely be easier to wrap up a return man looking for a hole. Keep it short to force the return and that average could drop for Kentucky in a good way.

Regardless, the new rule will only benefit Kentucky. If things stay the same, things get better. The Cats offense will get five extra yards thanks to the opposing team’s kicker sailing the football too deep into the end zone. If not and the kicker leaves it short, Demarco Robinson will scoop it up and show everyone what Joker has been talking about. Craig McIntosh is a well above-average kicker, and will be able to do anything Joker asks him to do, whether that is keeping the ball short with a floater, or driving it through the end zone to start fresh at the 25-yard line.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

20 Comments for New college kickoff rule will help Kentucky

  1. Wildcat in NC
    5:20 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    a benefit assuming we are able to score.

  2. Cousins Fake Tooth
    5:24 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    “sucessfully reducing the injuries”. Not really. Its been in place 1 year. Give it 10 years, then you can tell me that. Injuries are just random. One year 100 can happen, next year 2 can happen, year after 150 can happen. Hate when people throw out data, when its not really been tested in the long term.

  3. shelbyjoe
    5:25 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    hmmm, since we are UK, I’d say kick it out of the stadium, I’d love to reduce the number of times we have to attempt to tackle someone.

  4. Stuart Hammer
    5:29 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    2 – The number of concussions reported on kickoffs last season in the NFL was down 43 percent from 2010. Kickoffs are one of the most random and violent plays on the football field. 22 men running full speed head-on. Injuries are much more prone to happen in that scenario than many others.

  5. JC
    5:37 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Stuart Hammer is back again to demonstrate he knows almost nothing about sports. He has not thought this through at all. You cannot say this is a benefit in absolutes. There is no benefit to be shown at this point. Maybe, if only Kentucky got to move the ball out to the 25 and only Kentucky got to kickoff from the 35 you could speak in absolutes. Sorry dude, but this last year you have shown an inability to evaluate anything that goes on the fields or court. Please stop. You don’t need help with your writing. You need help with your thinking.

  6. Stan
    5:42 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    This will help some but as unfair as it might be, if we are not competative with the cards, it will be a hard season to turn around the fans. I know i
    the argument”Its just one game”, or”Its to early to give up”, but if they dominate us, the fans that are left will run for the hills. I’m sorry it is this way, but this team has to kep this game close if they want any chance to bring back the fans. Is it fair? Hell no! Is it true? Yes

  7. yep
    5:43 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Not even this rule change will be enough to save Joke(r)’s job.

    Back to the drawing board, ncaa!

  8. Karen Sypher's panties
    5:46 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Even if the ncaa / SEC made a rule that UK started every possession at the 50 – we would still lose 6 games.

  9. STEVE!
    5:51 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Not sure how it can be assumed this is a benefit to us. Teams with good kickers and plenty of pseed will just kick it high and short so that it lands around the five-yard line. By the time the returner is ready to run, the coverage team will be on him, having only to run 60 yards to get there.

  10. Stone Cold
    6:07 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    UK [email protected] at football and that’s the bottom line. Cause Stone Cold said so.

  11. Cousins fake tooth
    6:20 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    4) you obviously did not read all of what I typed. Things like that are RANDOM. Just because something happens 100 times on year, does not mean it will happen 100 more the next. Flip a quarter 100 times. By your logic, it WILL land on heads 50 times out of that hundred. You can’t go by data from a single season and say “yep theres the proof”. You need multiple years of data to verify things like this has an actual impact on thing like this.

  12. CliffFrankLou
    6:21 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    There was a time when we were very likely to get more return yards than our opponents. That may not be the case now. Please lay out your assessment how this will help us (what you have stated above obviously does not suffice).

  13. JayCee
    6:24 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Geezus. Next thing you know they’re going to outlaw tackling completely, allow girls to play and make the ball out of fuzzy dice material.

  14. Notsurebut
    6:25 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Isn’t Joe Mansour our normal kickoff guy?

  15. JayCee
    6:26 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    12- My thoughts exactly. Have we not had a kicker recently that has made a habit out of putting the ball thru the endzone on k/o’s? Seems to me that this rule only negates one of the few areas where UK actually had a leg up on the competition.

  16. Funkasaurus
    6:40 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Uk football

  17. CatGrad7072
    7:29 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    #6: Joker lost me two years ago at UT. It doesn’t matter what happens against UL. CJP was the cheap, handy, politically correct HCIW choice; we are paying the price now.

  18. Stuart Hammer
    8:38 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    11 – Regardless, that is not at all the point of this article. If hanging on to meaningless facts while ignoring the substance floats your boat, so be it.

  19. HilljackLinebeard
    8:46 pm August 20, 2012 Permalink

    Come on Matt, at least get a writer that knows our kickoffs are handled by Joe Mansour. McIntosh is the place kicker but does not kickoff. At least pretend the site gives a rats ass about football.

  20. FredTX
    4:56 pm August 21, 2012 Permalink

    Will there be anyone dumb enough to run one out of the endzone now? Just take a knee and get 25 yards. That’s more than is gained by most runbacks, I would guess.