If you haven’t heard about the NCAA’s latest tinkering moves, you can get the details here. The changes are being made in the name of safety, or so they tell us (Paul Johnson’s got to love the blocking below the waist clarification, but I doubt there are very many defensive linemen’s knees which share his joy), but I wonder how some of it plays out at Georgia, given the way we know Mark Richt likes to manage the game.
Here’s the key change:
The committee voted to move the kickoff to the 35-yard line (currently set at the 30-yard line), and to require that kicking team players must be no further than five yards from the 35 at the kick, which is intended to limit the running start kicking teams have during the play. The committee also voted to move the touchback distance on free kicks to the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line to encourage more touchbacks. NCAA data indicates injuries during kickoffs occur more often than in other phases of the game.
Actually, that’s three changes. The kickoff line is being moved back to where it was before 2007, I believe. I presume that’s to lead to more kickoffs being driven into the end zone for touchbacks. And the move to the 25 for touchbacks, which is new, is an incentive for returners to take a knee.
But I can’t help but look at the risk/reward in play here – especially in light of the third leg, the five-yard rule – and think “directional kicking”. Even though your coverage unit can’t get as big a head start at going full speed, they’ll still start out five yards closer to the return man. Isn’t there a huge temptation to get your kicker to hang a kick high enough to try to get coverage in place, because any starting position inside the opponent’s 25-yard line will be an improvement? There’s a bigger margin of error now in play that’s going to be tempting to some.
What do you guys think Richt will do on special teams in light of these changes?