Change in kickoffs, touchbacks approved by NCAA panel

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Significant changes are officially coming to the kicking game in 2012.

Two weeks after the NCAA Football Rules Committee announced it “has recommended several rules proposals intended to enhance student-athlete safety,” the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) has approved several of those proposals.  The rule change that will most likely receive the most attention is the one involving the spot of kickoffs and where a touchback is spotted.

From the NCAA’s release:

Next fall, teams will kick off at the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Also, players on the kicking team can’t line up for the play behind the 30-yard line, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams used to have during the play.

Also, touchbacks on free kicks will be moved to the 25-yard line instead of the 20 to encourage more touchbacks. Touchbacks on other plays (for example, punts that go into the end zone, or fumbles that go out of the end zone) will remain at the 20-yard line.

Encouraging more touchbacks was the impetus for the change, with the NCAA stating that data showed injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.  Of course, the kicking team can, if it so chooses, negate the intent of the rule change by placing kicks high and short of the goal line.  Additionally, returners can simply opt against taking a knee in the end zone and bring a kick out anyways, although it’s hoped by the NCAA that the extra five yards gained on a touchback would encourage coaching staffs to instruct their return men to kneel if a kickoff reaches the end zone.

In addition to the new kickoff/touchback rules, there’s another change certain to cause at least some controversy.  Accepting the recommendation of the committee, PROP has implemented a rule which states that “if a player loses his helmet (other than as the result of a foul by the opponent, such as 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.”

While this rule change will certainly cause some consternation, there really is a simple solution to the oncoming angst: make sure the helmet is properly fitted and buckle the freaking thing the way it’s meant to be.  Do that, and a helmet will very rarely if ever become detached from the wearer’s head, especially at the rate they have been the past couple of years.

Two other rule changes, again targeting improved player safety, were implemented:

  • Approved new wording in the football rules book regarding blocking below the waist. Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with a few exceptions (for example, straight-ahead blocks).
  • Players prohibited from leaping over blockers in an attempt to block a punt. Receiving-team players trying to jump over a shield-blocking scheme has become popular for teams in punt formation. Receiving-team players try to defeat this scheme by rushing into 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.

All of these new rules will be in effect for the 2012 season.

Auburn needs new offensive line coach, and UConn’s just resigned

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It appears Auburn’s search for a new offensive line coach may not take very long.

Tuesday, reports surfaced that Herb Hand was leaving The Plains to take the line job at Texas.  The veteran will also be adding to title of co-offensive coordinator with the Longhorns.

One day later, UConn confirmed in a press release that its line coach, J.B. Grimes, has resigned his position, effective immediately.  It just so happens that Grimes spent three seasons (2013-15) coaching at Auburn before moving on to Cincinnati for the 2016 season and, ultimately, UConn.

“I want to thank J.B. for his efforts during his time with us,” head coach Randy Edsall said in a statement. “I wish J.B and his family nothing but the best.”

Grimes spent one season with the Huskies.

Jauan Jennings enrolled in classes at Tennessee; future with Vols football still unclear

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It appears the door is at least slightly ajar for Jauan Jennings‘ return to Rocky Top.

A University of Tennessee spokesperson confirmed to the Knoxville News Sentinel that Jennings is enrolled in classes for the current semester. Jennings has met with both new head coach Jeremy Pruitt and athletic directors Phillip Fulmer about the possibility of being reinstated to the Vols football program.

“I think (Pruitt has) put some parameters around it,” Fulmer stated during a radio interview late last week, “and I guess everybody has got to figure out what those are and if they’re really going to do it. That’s up to them.”

The wide receiver’s status with the football program remains up in the air, nearly two months after Jennings went off on a profanity-laced social-media tirade aimed at the coaching staff. The day after, he was dismissed by interim head coach Brady Hoke, who made the decision in concert with then-athletic director John Currie.

In early September, prior to the off-field issue, Jennings suffered what turned out to be a season-ending wrist injury that limited him to three catches for 17 yards in just one game.

Jennings, who originally came to the Vols as a quarterback, was second on the team in 2016 with 580 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His 40 receptions were tied for second on the team as well.

Report: Deion Sanders opts not to join Florida State staff

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So much for a Primetime renewal in Tallahassee.

Late last month, just prior to Florida State’s Independence Bowl matchup with Southern Miss, speculation surfaced that there was mutual interest in Deion Sanders joining Willie Taggart‘s first FSU staff as defensive backs coach.  During an in-game interview, the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer was asked about the speculation but did little to quash it.

Nearly a month later, that potential reunion has reportedly been quashed.

Sanders, whose NFL career ended in 2005, has never coached at the collegiate level.  He started his own ill-fated charter school in 2012 and coached the football team there, while he served as the offensive coordinator at a private school in Texas this past season.

The former Seminole great currently serves as an analyst for the NFL Network.

Teammates, coaches take to social media to mourn Tyler Hilinski’s death

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As the Washington State family begins to mourn and attempts to process this tragedy, several of Tyler Hilinski‘s teammates and coaches used social media to help sort through the tangled gamut of emotions they’re running through.

Overnight, word surfaced that the redshirt sophomore quarterback had been found dead of what’s believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “He was an incredible young man,” head coach Mike Leach said in a statement, “and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it.”

On both Twitter and Instagram, heartbroken Cougar football players and coaches dealt with the devastation left in the suicide’s wake.

And this might be the most important message to come out of this tragedy.  Maybe in death, Tyler Hilinski can help someone find the hope and the help they need.

R.I.P young man.