Kill talks NCAA’s football changes

The changes include moving the kickoff line and the touchback line, as well as having players sit out for a play after losing their helmets.

Andrew Krammer

 

The NCAA’s playing rules oversight panel voted to move kickoffs five yards to the 35-yard line in an effort to improve player safety.

It will likely also mean more touchbacks this season.

In addition to moving the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, the committee announced Friday that kicking team players can be no further than five yards from the 35 at the kick, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams have.

“Everything is passed down from the NFL,” Gophers football head coach Jerry Kill said. “But, I think every coach in America, no matter what level, you don’t want kids injured. You want the game to be safe, but we also know it’s a physical game.”

A year ago, the National Football League announced that its kickoffs would be moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line. The NFL announced this month the number of concussions during the 2011 season was cut in half due in part to the change.

The league also said a significant decrease in the number of runbacks played a role in the drop in concussions.

“Of course on the other side of that you’ve got the guys who have a dynamic kick returner,” Kill said. “Does it affect them? It does; there could be less returns. But, like in the NFL, some people will take it out deeper if they’ve got that good return man.”

The new regulations also move the touchback line from the 20- to the 25-yard line — a rule unique to college football.

The NCAA also clarified on Friday that the touchback change only applies to kickoffs. In other touchbacks, the ball will be placed on the 20-yard line. However, this won’t directly affect the Gophers strategy or game planning until they get closer to the season opener, Kill said.

The oversight panel said it reviewed data that suggested injuries occur more during kickoffs than any other play in a football game. Another rule change was made to address a common problem in last year’s college football season — helmets popping off during play.

A player now has to sit out a play if he loses his helmet during play if it’s not the result of a penalty, like a facemask. The rule is similar to the current rule that a player must sit out for a play if he’s injured on the previous play.

Helmets came off more than twice per game during the 2011 season, according to the NCAA.

Kill said that he’s not sold on the helmet policy.

“Having a guy go out for a play — is that the answer for having a helmet pop off? They’re still going to pop off. To me, you need to figure out why those helmets are popping off.”

A new rule now prohibits players from leaping over blockers in an attempt to block a punt.

There will be new guidelines implemented next season regarding blocking below the waist and blocking on punt returns as well.

Although the NCAA is currently in a non-rules change year as part of the two-year cycle process, these specific changes can be implemented now because they directly impact student-athlete safety.