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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.

Missouri hires former Texas coach Brick Haley as new defensive line coach

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 24:  Defensive end Charles Harris #91 and defensive lineman Jordan Harold #55 of the Missouri Tigers celebrate after sacking quarterback Daniel Epperson #11 of the Delaware State Hornets during the game at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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It took a few weeks, but Missouri head coach Barry Odom has a new defensive line coach.

The school announced the hiring of Brick Haley on Friday afternoon, a longtime veteran SEC coach who heads to Columbia after previously serving on Charlie Strong’s staff at Texas.

“I’m very pleased and really excited to be joining Coach Odom’s program,” said Haley in a release.  “We haven’t worked together, but I’m very aware of him and the reputation he has in the coaching profession.  I look at this as an unbelievable opportunity to work with someone who has such an impressive passion and work ethic.  It didn’t take me long in our conversations to know that Coach Odom is the right guy and someone you want to work with.  I believe that Mizzou is a place where the sky is the limit, and I’m looking forward to being part of the program.”

Haley has a strong reputation as a recruiter, which is helpful considering that the Tigers are in a bit of a rebuilding job right now. In addition his recent stop at Texas, he also coached at LSU, the Chicago Bears, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and others.

Missouri does have a strong tradition of producing first-round picks along the defensive line and it appears that, after a one year speed bump with Jackie Shipp, the program has found the next coach to help carry on that tradition.

Fourth Georgia Tech player to transfer since end of season

DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Christian Philpott of Georgia Tech celebrates victory over Boston College in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Ireland 2016 at Aviva Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)
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Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season.  Thursday, that trio became a quartet.

On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January.  The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.

If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.

UNC’s Nazair Jones leaving Tar Heels early for NFL

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Nazair Jones #90 and Dominquie Green #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels tackle Mark Walton #1 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.

North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.  The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.

“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”

“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”

Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played.  The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.

Urban Meyer could lose two OSU assistants to FBS head-coaching jobs

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining.  Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.

The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job.  According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.

The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today.  It could, though, come this weekend.

Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.

In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.

In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.