The new NCAA rules and Richtball

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?


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

48 responses to “The new NCAA rules and Richtball

  1. Harvey

    I think you’ll see a little bit of both. It will be tailored to the situation. I don’t see Richt selling out for the high risk play. It really depends on the skill players he is willing to risk putting on the field for kickoff.

    I think a better question is how deep is too deep for us to take one out of the end zone on returns??

    • Newt

      Harvey, a lot of NFL teams this year put their returners about 6 yards deep in the end zone this year and told them “if you have to take a step back, take a knee. If you come forward for the ball, bring it out.”

  2. Macallanlover

    As much as I love Mark Richt, and want him at UGA for as long as he will stay, I bet you may be ahead of him on this. His lack of enthusiasm to embrace STs over the years leads me to believe he might put that NCAA announcement on the bottom of the in-basket. I would love to see him personally take ST responsibility and make it a priority at UGA. What has it cost us in the past few years? One game per year? Two? For all the concerns expressed over OC and DC at UGA our mistakes and field position set backs have been more significant. Time we man up on this issue.

    I like the rule change to move the ball to the 25 on touchbacks. Agree with the NCAA about the danger of kickoffs and wouldn’t mind the ball be placed at the 25 and do away with kickoffs all together. I know that sounds wimpy and non-traditionalist on my part but I can do without them (and the ridiculous block in the back penalties that seem to come with 80% of them and no one is injured by them). The only piece I would hate giving up is the onside kick.

    • Puffdawg

      “…and the ridiculous block in the back penalties…”

      Or lack thereof for national title contenders.

      • Macallanlover

        Yes, some get missed like in the SECCG, but the problem is blocks above the waist rarely result in any injury, and most are very questionable and borderline because the defender can make a slight turn and cause the blockers helmet to come in around the shoulder pad, slightly ahead or behind. I always wait for the flag on every kickoff or punt. Tremendous drive killer for the small risk it represents.

  3. GreenDawg

    I think the touchback coming back to the 25 is going to come back to bite them. As you said, it provides an incentive for the kicking team to kick is short of the endzone. It’s not terribly hard to stop the guy before he reaches the 25, even without a running head start. I don’t know about Richt, but for coaches that obsess about every yard(i.e. Saban, Miles, etc.) this is going to get ugly. Their coverage will be smashing into the front lines before the ball even starts to fall. I think you’ll see more injuries because of this, especially early in the season.

    • DawgPhan

      I dont think that I would count Miles in the group of coaches that obsess over every yard…unless you are talking about the grass in the yard.

    • Dante

      How do I expect Richt to react? I fully expect him to ignore kickoff coverage until game day when he grabs his 3rd stringers and walk-ons and tells them, “You remember kickoff coverage from when you played high school football? Yeah? Well, go do that.”

  4. 81Dog

    because 25 < 35 or 40, I say kick the ball out of the end zone and be done with it. Given our record with the directional kickoff approach the past few years, I think we come out way ahead by just telling the kicker to hammer it into the bleachers every time.

    • HK

      I’ve never felt directional kicking was a flawed philosophy. Lots of teams use it with great success… and they’re about to get much better at it.

      Sticking with it when Walsh proved he was completely incapable of putting the ball where it needed to be (but entirely capable of kicking it out of the end zone) was the problem.

      If we’ve got an accurate kicker, I’m 100% for it, especially since “success” is now bringing the return man down inside the 25 instead of the 20.

      • gastr1

        It’s definitely not flawed to use the sideline as another defender and pre-determine which side of the field to run to. You have to have players who can execute it, though, including a kicker who be fairly precise.

  5. 81Dog

    one thing this WILL really affect is the onside kick. Now most of your kicking team guys will be 15 yards from the ball at impact instead of 10. That has to be a concern if you’re trying to recover an onside kick.

    • Castleberry

      I’m not reading it that way. It says “no further” not exactly. You should still be able to toe up on the line for onside kicks.

    • Mr. Tu

      The kick off team can be “no further” than five yards at the kick. All that means is they can’t get a running start, but does not mean they can’t still be at the line at the time of the kick. At least that is how I read it

  6. Haywood Jablome

    To be honest, I don’t expect Richt to react to the new rules until at least two or three years down the road. Cutting edge isn’t one of Richt’s calling cards.

  7. Newt

    81Dog, great point bringing up the onside kick. Less risk in that it would probably be recovered around the 50 by the receiving team and the kicking team already has everybody closer to ball making it easier to disguise.
    I think we’ll definitely see teams with great coverage units go for the directional kick, and I would be in favor of employing it against sub-par return units. Against good/great returners, it’s not worth the risk of a big return, boot it through the end zone and give them the 25.

  8. Jim

    What is the over/under on how many times we will be penalized for having players too far back on kickoffs?

  9. Bevo

    “What do you guys think Richt will do on special teams in light of these changes?”

    Screw up.

    • Puffdawg

      I know I constantly jump on people for dogging the program and perhaps I’m a bit sensitive, but please take a step back for a moment and look in the mirror and see how sad pathetic lame it is for a self proclaimed UGA fan to be talking like that about a head coach with the highest winning percentage in school history, including winning records against all our rivals except one, who serves as a great ambassador for the program and the school, and is generally well liked and respected by most other coaches and fans around the country (excepting some of his own fans, of course). Seriously, give this shit a rest.

      (edit. note- I realize I can’t cure the evils of the internet but good God this gets old. Mark Richt is not some scumbag win at all costs coach (Saban, Meyer). Nor is he some Bible thumping incompetent (SOD, Dennis Felton). He wins many more games than he loses and he represents our alma mater well. What more do you want?)

      • The whole crowd that thinks Richt has never done anything that would be considered unique or cutting edge is kind of ridiculous anyways. It’s certainly a fair statement to say that he has taken a glacial approach to addressing problems. However, we are so soon to forget that Richt was singledhandedly responsible for the SEC changing clock rules due to the uptempo offense he had David Greene running in ’02-’03. I mean, it’s not like Saban is winning by doing anything that would be considered groundbreaking. His teams run the ball and play strong defense. Nothing spectacular there. He’s just the most extreme micromanager in the history of the game that leaves no detail untouched.

      • Dante

        Special teams has been a sore spot for Richt. He deserves the heat he’s taken over it. And he wouldn’t get that kind of heat if we didn’t think he was otherwise a great coach. You don’t see SOD getting dinged for his special teams coverage. I’m a UGA fan but I’m not going to pretend the program doesn’t have it’s fair share of problems. Kick coverage just happens to be one of those problems.

        FWIW, I do remember jokes people would crack about Dooley never ever calling a pass play. When we saw a pass, we’d joke that it must’ve been an audible.

      • Cojones

        Good for you, Puffdawg. That needs to be said as often as the lamers keep posting like they don’t get it at all. They just wait for a new subject (most recent is recruiting) and lay in the trash talking. Then they attack you in their idiotic frenzy born out of frustration in proving their point. Many are holdovers who never wanted Richt here and were burned by his success. The motive of others is suspect.

        Why wouldn’t Richt and all coaches approach this kickoff by the myriad of options presented? Kick high and get downfield to the 5-10yd line for the high placement to pin them back? If they elect for it to bounce in the end zone, what’s lost from the kicker’s standpoint? Nothing. It would be the same as kicking through the endzone intentionally. The bad occurs for the receiving team if that ball doesn’t go through the end zone. It’s a live ball and all hell can break loose.

        Kicking it high enough gives the same option you have now to get downfield, but with improved chances to nail them short. The downside would be overrunning the play , the same as at present. I think it adds another dimension and panoply of choices. Look to Richt and our staff to lead the way on utilizing it to the best advantage (like hurryup offense) of Georgia.

      • Macallanlover

        +1 Puff. Seven of eleven seasons with 10+ wins, 2 SEC titles, 5 East wins/ties and admirable as a man in his professional and personal life. Yeah, we oughta not only kick him to the curb, but publicly blast him.

        Good for the program you know, makes everyone with a keyboard look like big men who just won’t take it anymore. Yep, they have a solution to the perceived problem, they will unveil soon after CMR’s inadequate replacement is announced.

  10. 69Dawg

    Ok I’m confused. In the NFL which I presume is where they got the rule, the players must line up at the 30 which means they can only get a 5 yard run before the ball is kicked. Is that what the NCAA is shooting for???That means they won’t be at full speed until they are at the 40 by which time they are being blocked. I would love to see the stats for the pros for injuries on KO this past year. I think the 25 yard line spot is an adjustment to the NFL rule to get the receiving team to take a knee. The NFL as noted earlier has started to put the return man 5 or 6 deep in the endzone to run it out but they usually only get past the 20 by a little. Given the risks of a fumble if you can gain the 25 by taking a knee I would take the knee unless your return man was Hester.

  11. HVL Dawg

    I’m really not understanding something.

    How many yards of running does it take to get a player up to full steam? Don’t you think most kick off injuries are occurring between the 20 and 40 yard line? Taking 5 yards off the defender’s run isn’t going to make a smaller or more controlled collision at the 30 yard line.

  12. AusDawg85

    I’d like to see Carlton Thomas go up the middle to cover…it’s his fastest and best play.

  13. we know from experience that CMR likes the directional/pop-up kick and therefore I would expect pop-up kicks that will,if executed properly(yes, a major if) would require a fair catch around the 20. It would all depend on where the ball would land on the pop-up kick. If it would hit on the 35 than we’ll kick deep but if it’s landing on the 25 or deeper than pop it up and hope for a mishandled kick. I think history says they’ll be attempted.

  14. Paul

    Jarvis Jones would have been required to sit out half of the Chik Fil A Kickoff last year due to his helmet popping off!

    • Newt

      That was absurd, but I don’t remember his helmet coming off the rest of the year. So I guess his blaming it on the pro combat helmet was legit.

  15. A Dawg Fan

    Somewhere…John Fabris is smiling.

    • knight dawg

      Has the Senator been Fabris this whole time, waiting for the perfect time to resurrect the directional kick?

  16. Joe in Alpharetta

    It says “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.” Doesn’t “Free Kicks” mean the kickoff after a safety? Wouldn’t that mean that a touchback on a regular kickoff is unchanged?

    • Cojones

      Right Joe. After reviewing, I’d have to say the word “free” does imply a puntafter a safety is scored. Also ,on kickoffs, the players can be on the 35 with the ball when kicked off. They aren’t required to be back any yards and can only get a 5yd runup at the kicking line, no more.

      The wording is such that the kickoffs and free kicks get mixed up when read in their proximity to each other. I don’t contemplate that a free kick (punt or teed up) from the 25 is going to travel 75 yds for a touchback. Someting wong, probably in our interpretation of “free” as used in the rules for kicking.

  17. cj

    I’m just glad to hear someone else saw that blatant block in the back on ole bunny badger’s return in the SECCG…if that’s what their talkin about. I thought it was pretty damn obvious, but then I never heard anything else about it?!

    Well, as for the rules change…if less kids get hurt as a result then it worked.

  18. Scott

    Do we even have a kicker for next year? who?

    • Cojones

      You won’t hear about him very much because he is in surgery to lengthen his right leg 2 inches to take advantage of the new kickoff rule.

    • Macallanlover

      HS recruit coming from the same school as Blair Walsh in Florida. He is rated among the top 5 in the country. I know we already had a commit from him early but that guy Tricky Nicky got from Calhoun looked very solid. Never know with kickers until they hit the field but I think the staff was on this early.

  19. Erskine

    With the defensive unit I anticpate Georiga to have in 2012, kick it through the end zone then get a 3 and out series.
    I suspect most SEC teams wil have kickers with the ability to kick it through the end zone. The rule will only hurt teams that utilze their return team to gain field position advantages or getting quick points to stay in a ballgame. As example, if the rule was in place this year the Vandy game would have been over with by the 8 minute mark of the 4th quarter, instead of down to the wire.
    I believe most coaches will use directional kicking as a situational strategy. If you are up by 10 or more points why risk giving up a return and touchdown.

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  21. TomReagan

    Two things:

    First, I wonder if the ‘5 yds from the ball rule’ applies to the kickers as well.

    Second, this, presumably, means that a kick out of bounds will mean the offense gets the ball at the 35 instead of the 40. With the extension of the touchback rule, this leaves only a 10 yd difference between a touchback and a kick out of bounds intead of 20 under the old rules. If you’ve got a kicker with a weak leg, you may be better off telling him to kick it out of bounds now instead of hoping for a touchback.