New kickoff rules = more touchbacks, less concussions?

Are you wondering if the new college kickoff rules will have much of an effect on the game?  Nate Silver’s looked at the results from the NFL’s first season with kickoffs from the 35-yard line and finds the data to be statistically significant.

Touchbacks skyrocketed to 43.5 percent this season, more than two and a half times last year’s rate of 16.4 percent.

Did the rule change deprive fans of excitement? From a numbers standpoint, the answer is yes. Nine kickoffs were returned for a touchdown in 2011, compared to 23 in 2010.

The 2011 rate of 153 kickoff returns per touchdown was close to double the rate of 88 per touchdown in 2010. But it was actually better than the rate of 163 returns per touchdown from 2008.

Concussions on kickoffs were reportedly reduced by 50 percent this past season.

Those are tradeoffs I can live with, especially considering this.

In taking the NFL’s experience into account, there is one wrinkle of uncertainty.  The NCAA is moving touchbacks to the 25-yard line, a step the NFL chose not to take.  On the surface, that’s certainly adds incentive to take a knee on kickoffs which go into the end zone, but will it also encourage kickoff teams to attempt more directional kicking?


Filed under College Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The Body Is A Temple

14 responses to “New kickoff rules = more touchbacks, less concussions?

  1. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I thought the ball was going to be placed at the 25 yard line for touchbacks on “free kicks” (i.e. after a safety) only. Is the NCAA going to let touchbacks from regular kickoffs be placed at the 25 yard line, too?


  2. Biggus Rickus

    The 25 yard-line rule basically negates the effect of the 35 yard-line change. They’ve made more touchbacks possible but reduced the incentive for the kicking team. The NCAA Rules Committee is baffling sometimes.


  3. i know i can & i believe the Dawgs can live with their opponents starting a drive on their own 25 yard line. 2 first downs & still on their own side of the 50. That will work for me.


    • Macallanlover

      Agree, I like the balance in this rule change. The net safety gain is a real positive and it may increase the strategy for both the receiving team and the kicking team. Me likes.


  4. Cojones

    The 50% reduction is an astounding benefit. The subject of medical insurance was interesting, but I kept waiting for the fiat concerning UGA. After a SF Forty Niner died of heart wall thickening (which reduces the volume of blood pumped with each beat when the heart internal capacity is diminished) a news show ran a survey of all NFL teams to see if an expensive medical test was done to detect the almost rare anomaly. Not one did the test. The news show went on to say they decided to ask if anyone preformed such a test in D-1 college football. Only one school performed the test on all athletes. When I saw the Bulldog helmets held high by the team, I was floored. Seems Dr. Ron Courson had contracted a medical company to include it in all physical testing for athletes and at great cost to UGA. Never been prouder than if we had the largest O line in all of college and professional football (please excuse the attempt at humor while in this serious vein). The interest in the welfare and health of atheletes are higher at the University of Georgia than any other institution, bar none.

    Addendum: Dr Courson went on to lead the NCAA to reduce spearing in college ball. With the advent of the new kickoff rule, I would say that the NCAA is on the correct path initially chosen by Georgia; that of providing remediation from life-changing injury that can occur at any time in full contact college football. Score one for the safety of players.


  5. Cojones

    The new kickoff rule hopefully will be implemented by our ST coach(s) by kicking high down the middle for the ball to land between the 5-10yd lines in lieu of directionally kicking to one side or the other (If that is what’s meant by “directional kicking”). The teams that can accomplish that feat will be in possition to best use the rule for advantage. The higher the kick, the better chance of pinning them back. If the opponent elects to let it fall, it’s a live ball and the worst that can happen would be a touchback for the kicking team.

    Let the games begin with the new rule!


  6. Meg

    I have always thought punts were far more dangerous as the punt returner is usually so much closer to the oncoming rush upon receiving the ball.


    • fetch

      With kick offs the returner has time to reach full speed, so the tackler and returner can hit each other with more force. Plus, kick catch interference penalties help on punt returns.


  7. fetch

    I can see this rule change used to neutralize a good return game and expose a bad one. I think it’s a win-win for the kicking team.


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