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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.

Report: Tommy Tuberville considering running for governor of Alabama

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 19:  Head Coach Tommy Tuberville of Auburn University tries to avoid a bucket of water while celebrating their win over the University of Alabama on November 19, 2005 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama.  Auburn defeated Alabama 28-18.   (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Hey, if it’s good enough for The Donald and Jesse The Body it’s good enough for The Tubs.

After stepping down as Cincinnati’s head coach in early December, Tommy Tuberville has remained on the coaching unemployment line and appears set to sit out the 2017 season.  It looks like Tuberville won’t be sitting idly by, though, as Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com is reporting that the coach is considering throwing his hat into the political ring and making a gubernatorial run in the state of Alabama in 2018.

From Dodd’s report:

Two words — Donald Trump,” said Terry Lathan, the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, when she heard Tuberville was a possibility for the GOP. “See, Nov. 8.”

“I mean, seriously, the climate for a non-political person? We saw this clearly on November the 8th …,” Lathan reiterated.

“We’ve just got a big old soup of fun waiting for us. As they say in stands, ‘We’re going to need some more popcorn.’

Tuberville, an Arkansas native who’s never held political office, is expected to decide in the next week or two whether or not he’ll run for governor of Alabama.  Most famously, he was the head coach at Auburn from 1999-2008 after abruptly leaving Ole Miss, helping to guide the Tigers to a six-game winning streak over the rival Alabama Crimson Tide during his tenure.

The guess here is that Tuberville runs, wins despite any lingering ‘Bama venom, then, not long after saying “they’ll have to carry me out of this governor’s mansion in a pine box,” leaves Alabama to take the same job in Mississippi.

Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas among seven finalists for transferring Clemson DT

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07:  Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers tries to stop Sean Maguire #10 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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It appears one prominent graduate transfer is zeroing in on a new college football home.

Not long after it was confirmed that Scott Pagano would be transferring from Clemson, a report surfaced that three dozen or so teams had expressed interest in the defensive tackle.  Pagano has since whittled that number down to seven, with 247Sports.com reporting that Arkansas, Cal, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas are the lineman’s finalists.

Pagano’s former head coach, Dabo Swinney, had previously stated that the tackle would “probably” end up at a West Coast school to finish out his career.

The recruiting website writes that “Pagano will now begin setting up official visits for the coming weekends before enrolling in May.” This upcoming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Derwin James, Nate Andrews among 11 for FSU to earn medical redshirts

ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 05:  Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Things were a little busy on the personnel front for Florida State Monday.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Derwin James and Nate Andrews were two of the 11 Seminole football players who received redshirts for the 2016 season.  The twin safeties received their medical hardship waivers because of injuries, James a meniscus tear suffered in Week 2 that kept him out for the rest of the year and Andrews a torn pectoral that sidelined him for the last half of the season.

While the move would technically give James three more years of eligibility, the talented defensive back is widely expected to make himself available for the 2018 NFL draft.  Andrews will be a fifth-year senior in his final year of eligibility.

As a true freshman in 2015, James’ 91 tackles were second only to Reggie Northrup’s 94. He was also second on the team in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (4.5).

For that, he was named a consensus freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC.  This offseason, he was named to the Bednarik AwardNagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award watch lists.

Andrews has started 22 games during his time with the Seminoles.

At the other end of the personnel spectrum is Ryan Hoefield, with TomahawkNation.com reporting that the offensive lineman has not only decided to leave FSU but leave the sport, period.  According to the website, Hoefield will graduate this spring and take a job in the medical field.

Hoefield played in nine games the past three years, only one f which came in 2016 and likely hastened his departure from the Seminoles.

DB Cedrick Wright no longer a part of the Miami football program

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 29: Head coach Mark Richt of the Miami Hurricanes is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 29, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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College football free agency continues unabated this morning, with Miami the latest to see its roster a little lighter than it once was.

The Hurricanes announced in a press release that Cedrick Wright is no longer a member of Mark Richt‘s program.  No specific reason for the parting of ways was given.

“I talked to Cedrick and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” the head coach said in a statement. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

The departure marks the end of a brief but eventful career for the defensive back with the ‘Canes.

Wright was a three-star member of The U’s 2016 recruiting class who played in nine games as a true freshman.  He was also suspended for the Week 12 game against North Carolina State because of unspecified violations of team rules, and missed the team’s bowl game as well because of academics.