Kickoff change not popular with Minnesota

The NFL recently voted to move kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line; more than likely, the NCAA will soon follow suit.

Nicolas Hallett

Until Tuesday, neither Minnesota senior Troy Stoudermire nor head coach Jerry Kill had heard of the newly-approved NFL rule change that moves kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line.

It didnâÄôt take either man long to form an opinion of it, however.

âÄúIâÄôm old school; I wish they wouldnâÄôt mess with the game,âÄù Kill said. âÄúI like the integrity of the game the way it is, but I will accept any of the rules that come down.âÄù

The rule doesnâÄôt affect the college game initially, but the NCAA usually follows close behind its professional counterpart.

On March 22, NFL owners voted to alter rules for its opening play, moving the kickoff up the field by 5 yards.

The NFL league office maintains that the rule change is for safety purposes.  The average football play is dangerous enough, but during kickoffs, because both teams start on opposite ends, players are in all-out sprints by the time they crash into one another.

The NFL hopes that moving the kickoffs closer will create more touchbacks, therefore minimizing overall return opportunities and the violent, high-speed contact that comes with them.

âÄúI hope it doesnâÄôt come to the college game, but I can see how it makes the game safer,âÄù Stoudermire said.  âÄúKick returns are one of the most exciting plays in football.  As a player and returner I think it would hurt the fabric of the game.âÄù

Stoudermire, who has been the GophersâÄô kick returner since his freshmen season, needs just 190 more return yards to break the all-time NCAA record.

With the rule change, NFL teams may not covet a dangerous return man as much as they used to.  This doesnâÄôt seem to worry Stoudermire, who is confident in his defensive skills.

âÄúIâÄôm focused on making the NFL as cornerback.âÄù Stoudermire said. He played wide receiver during the 2010 season, but has recently shifted back to the defense.

Kill, along with his special teams and defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel, didnâÄôt mince words when commenting on the NFLâÄôs recent change.

âÄúIn my opinion, itâÄôs a stupid rule,âÄù said Sawvel. âÄúThe NFL has advanced football so much because of their popularity, but a lot of the rule changes hinder the game.âÄù

The coaches also responded to the NFLâÄôs claim that increased touchbacks could make the game safer.

âÄúIf itâÄôs to increase touchbacks, might as well not have a kickoff.âÄù Kill said.

Added Sawvel: âÄúWhatever they want to spin it as âĦ IâÄôd prefer they leave the game alone.âÄù