Not a fan of this at all. It basically takes a great return man out of the game by giving the kicking team an easier shot at getting the touchback. And then when kicking teams do try to pin runners deep, it puts an even bigger bullseye on the runner than was there before. So, I'm not convinced there will be a safety benefit.
This season the NCAA has moved the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. The aim is to create more touchbacks, cut back on the number of returns, and — in the process — hopefully cut down on the number of injuries. Statistics showed fewer injuries in the NFL last year after a similar plan was put into place by that league.
The difference between the college and pro rule, however, is that a touchback in the college game will bring the ball out to the 25-yard line as opposed to the 20. That means there will be more strategy involved which means coaches — like LSU’s Les Miles — will have to figure out exactly how they’ll handle the new rule:
“We’re not really ready to reveal a strategy change, but we’re not really ready to say it’s going to be much different, either. We’re just trying to figure out what difference five yards really mean…
There’s some issue with whether or not you can trap (the other team) down in there…
You’ll find that there are similarities to the way the game is going to be played. I think it will give way to some different strategy, but I don’t necessarily want to talk about that.”
Kick it through the end zone or try to pin a team deep with a high, short kickoff? Depends on your kicker and your coverage team.
Bring a kick out of the end zone or take a knee and get the ball at the 25? Depends on the quality of your return man.
Miles won’t be the only one trying to get a handle on this new rule this year. You can bet the guy next to you in the stands will ask, “Why are they bringing it to the 25?” the first time he sees the new rule in place.
This move — though we agree with the rationale behind it — is going to take some getting used to.