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NCAA proposes significant changes to kickoffs

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A short time after watching Eric LeGrand paralyzed from the neck down covering a kickoff, then-Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano questioned why kickoffs were still being utilized and suggested eliminating the play from the game of college football.

While it’s highly unlikely such a ban would ever be enacted, the NCAA is looking to take steps to ensure greater player safety on kickoffs.

Following a series of meetings that began Tuesday in Charlotte and ended Thursday, the NCAA Football Rules Committee announced it “has recommended several rules proposals intended to enhance student-athlete safety for the 2012 season.”  Included is a proposal that could significantly impact kick returns at the collegiate level.

The committee voted to move the kickoff to the 35-yard line (currently set at the 30-yard line), and to require that kicking team players must be no closer than five yards from the 35 at the kick, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams have during the play. The committee also voted to move the touchback distance on free kicks to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line to encourage more touchbacks. NCAA data indicates injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.

The effects of such changes would appear to be twofold.  One, moving the kickoff out to the 35-yard line would increase the number of kickoffs that reach the end zone.  And, two, coaches may be inclined to encourage his returner men, because the spot of a touchback would be moved out to the 25-yard line, to take a knee when a kickoff reached the end zone.

Add both those together and it’s very likely the number of kick returns would decrease, thus decreasing the chance of injury on a play the NCAA’s data suggests is more dangerous than any other in the game.

“In all of our proposals, we are continuing the annual effort to find ways to make our game safer where we can,” said Scot Dapp, chair of the committee and athletics director at Moravian College, in a statement that accompanied the NCAA’s release. “Without question, these changes will enhance student-athlete safety and we feel very comfortable based on the data we collected that the impact will be significant.”

The NCAA went on to explain that the proposals can be implemented immediately because they deal with player safety.

Even though it is a non-rules change year as part of the two-year cycle process, these rule changes can be proposed for immediate implementation because they directly impact student-athlete safety.

The other proposals approved by the committee appear below:

  • Loss of Helmet During Play. If a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, like a facemask), it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game and is not allowed to participate for the next play. Current injury timeout rules guard against using this rule to gain an advantage from stopping the clock. Additionally, if a player loses his helmet, he must not continue to participate in play to protect him from injury. Data collected during the 2011 season indicated that helmets came off of players more than two times per game.
  • Blocking Below the Waist. The intent of the changes made last season were to only allow blocking below the waist when the opposing player is likely to be prepared for this contact, but the opposite impact was discovered in some cases. To clarify the intent, the committee approved wording that essentially allows offensive players in the tackle box at the snap that are not in motion to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (e.g. straight ahead blocks).
  • Shield Blocking Scheme on Punting Plays. The committee reviewed several examples of shield blocking, which has become a popular blocking scheme for punting teams. In several cases, a receiving team player attempts to jump over this type of scheme in the backfield to block a punt. In some cases, these players are contacted and end up flipping in the air and landing on their head or shoulders. The committee is extremely concerned about this type of action and proposed a rule similar to the leaping rule on place kicks that does not allow the receiving team to jump over blockers, unless the player jumps straight up or between two players.
  • Additional Protection to Kick Returner. Through officiating interpretation, the committee approved a recommendation to provide a kick returner additional protection to complete a catch before allowing contact by the kicking team.

Ohio State OL Demetrius Knox out 8 weeks with another broken foot

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Storm clouds roll in over Ohio Stadium in the second quarter of a game between the Tulsa Hurricane and the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. The second half was delayed because of severe weather.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Aside from his feet, Demetrius Knox simply can’t catch a break.

In February of 2015, the Ohio State offensive line broke his foot and miss all of spring practice.  A year and a half later, ElevenWarriors.com initially reported that Knox had again sustained a broken foot and would be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

An OSU spokesperson subsequently confirmed the redshirt sophomore recently underwent surgery and will be out for eight weeks, although it’s unclear if it’s the same foot he broke last year.  Such a timeline means Knox’s regular season is all but over, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll play in the postseason.

A four-star member of the Buckeyes’ 2014 recruiting class, Knox was rated as the No. 5 guard in the country and the No. 15 player at any position in the state of Texas.  On 247Sports.com‘s composite board, Knox was rated as the No. 97 player overall in that class.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Knox played in 13 games in 2015, mostly on special teams.  This season, he’s been listed as a backup at right guard while maintaining a role on special teams.

Arizona facing more questions in its backfield

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Running back Nick Wilson #28 of the Arizona Wildcats carries the ball in the second half of the game Grambling State Tigers at Arizona Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats won 31-21. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The personnel situation in Arizona’s backfield has gotten dicey all of a sudden.

J.J. Taylor picked up the injured Nick Wilson‘s carries in last weekend’s loss to Washington and rushed for 97 yards, but will be lost for a significant period of time because of a broken left ankle sustained in the same game. Now Wilson, who missed the UW game because of an ankle injury, is listed as questionable for the UCLA game because of that lingering injury issue.

Wilson originally sustained the injury early on in the Week 3 win over Hawaii, meaning the dreaded high-ankle sprain may be in play.

Taylor and Wilson are currently 1-2 amongst Wildcat running backs in rushing yards with 261 and 257, respectively. Wilson was UA’s leading rushers the first two games of the season, with Wilson taking that honor in Week 3.

Overall, though, quarterback Brandon Dawkins leads the team in yards (391), rushing touchdowns (seven) and yards per carry (8.9).

Dawkins will be making his fourth straight start in place of Anu Solomon, who began the season as the starter but hasn’t played since injuring his knee during practice leading into Week 2.

Nick Chubb’s dad says he doesn’t think UGA RB will play vs. Vols

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 24:  Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball and is pursued by the defense of the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  The Rebels defeated the Bulldogs 45-14.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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Unfortunately, it appears the dreaded high-ankle sprain has bitten one of the most snake-bitten running backs in the country.

In Georgia’s Week 4 loss to Ole Miss, Nick Chubb sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter and couldn’t return.  Kirby Smart has held his cards close to his vest this week when to came to Chubb’s availability for the Week 5 game against Tennessee, even as most, if not all of the signs pointed to the running back being sidelined for the key SEC East matchup.

Friday, Chubb’s father all but ended the mystery over his son’s availability, while simultaneously indicating that a Week 6 return should be in the cards — provided it’s not the usual lingering high-ankle sprain.

“I don’t think he’s going to play,” Henry Chubb told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s got that high-ankle sprain. He twisted it trying to make a cut against Ole Miss. He’s in good spirits and all. He understands it. The doctor said he’d need a couple weeks, so he’ll probably play next week.”

Chubb returned from a devastating knee injury that knocked him out for more than half of the 2015 season, rushing for career regular-season high of 222 yards in the 2016 opener in his first game back.  In his three games since the opener, however, Chubb has run for just 200 yards total.

Still, his 422 yards are far and away tops on the Bulldogs.  With Chubb out for at least this weekend, the running-game load will fall to Brian Herrien (184 yards) and Sony Michel (106).

Women’s advocacy group to fly anti-Trump banners over Big House, four other college stadiums

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Donald Trump tours the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on September 30, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A post-debate poll shows Trump's rival Hillary Clinton with a seven point lead in Michigan.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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The 2016 presidential election could be coming to a college football stadium near you.

According to the Kansas City Star, a women’s advocacy group, UltraViolet Action, will fly airplanes over five stadiums this Saturday to protest what the group describes as “Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s ‘long record of misogyny.'”  The five stadiums are Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium, Kinnick Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field and Wallace Wade Stadium.

The most high-profile of the five games will be in the Big House, with No. 4 Michigan playing host to No. 8 Wisconsin.

The planes that the group have commissioned to do the flyovers will tow behind them banners that read “Trump Says Women R Pigs. Disagree? Vote.”  The stadiums selected reside in the so-called swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The Star writes that “UltraViolet describes itself as a ‘powerful and rapidly growing community of people from all walks of life mobilized to fight sexism and expand women’s rights, from politics and government to media and pop culture.'”