Kicking out the kickoff?

They’re talking about it — fairly seriously, from what it sounds like.

However, rules changes typically bubble up to the committee from coaches and administrators. The AFCA acts in an advisory role to the NCAA rules committee. The oversight committee vets any changes by the rules committee before approving them.

“I’m excited we’re starting to have this discussion,” said Todd Berry, AFCA executive director. “It looks like the data is skewed where we have more injuries on that play. If that’s the case, we have to look at eliminating the play, modifying the play, change blocking schemes.”

Berry spent 14 years as a head coach. He replaced Grant Teaff this year as the top AFCA executive.

“It’s a very, very, very in-depth conversation of how it [kickoffs] affects the game,” said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, an AFCA trustee.

Don’t know what they would replace it with, but if they wind up with a straight out place-the-ball-on-the-30-and-go result, what impact would that have on walk-ons?  For that matter, what impact would it have on the 85-man scholarship limit?  Would you need the same roster size in a world without kickoffs?

46 Comments

Filed under College Football, The Body Is A Temple

46 responses to “Kicking out the kickoff?

  1. I understand the injury risk on kickoffs with guys going full speed at one another especially the guys on the coverage unit. I also understand a big kickoff return or great coverage can be a momentum and field position changer. Would this be the end of onside kicks, which may be more dangerous than regular kickoffs? If so with today’s clock rules, a two-score game is pretty much over in the last 3 minutes.

    If they are going to mess with one of the fundamental rules of the game, the NCAA had better think about the ramifications on the game before wading into this.

    Next will be punts … soon enough, we’ll be playing 7 on 7 flag if safety is the overriding concern of the rules committee. If that happens, there will be a lot of white elephants sitting around campuses where college football used to be played. I’m being sarcastic about that … I think.

    • hailtogeorgia

      I don’t really see how punts would be impacted by this (or onside kicks, for that matter). The danger in a kickoff results from it being pretty much the only play in the game where all eleven players on either side have a full head of steam before plowing into one another. On a punt, there are measures in place to protect a returner and the rest of the players are lined up relatively close. Onsides kicks you’re only getting around ten yards (if that) before there’s contact, which is nothing extraordinary.

      • My point is that once you make changes to the fundamental rules of the game for safety only, where do you stop? Eliminating kickoffs isn’t going to eliminate concussions from the game, which is what this is all about.

        If you replace the kickoff with something else, you can’t have the option of the onside kick unless the receiving team gets the option to have the ball kicked or to take the ball at some point on the field. Regardless the receiving team is always going to elect to take the ball rather than risking the onside kick at the end of a game. Therefore, the onside kick is no longer part of the game.

        • hailtogeorgia

          Changes to the fundamental rules of the game for safety only have been happening for years (see: facemask and horsecollar penalties). I don’t see it as them trying to eliminate concussions specifically (although reducing concussions is certainly a hot topic); I see it as a play where you have a disproportionate frequency of injuries as compared with all the other plays in a game. When you boil it down and start looking at why that is the case, it’s due to the structure of a kickoff and the amount of distance the players have before initial contact. From that perspective, it makes sense to see what kind of changes could be made if eliminating one play could significantly reduce the number of injuries and thus increase player safety.

          I don’t follow the logic around replacing the kickoff and it being mandatory that the receiving team gets an option. The receiving team doesn’t have any option currently around what the kicking team elects to do on a kickoff – the difference here would be that the ‘kickoff’ would be an automatic placement of the ball at some predetermined yard line (the 30, if we’re consistent with The Senator’s example); the kicking team could still choose to attempt an onside kick without issue. Let’s face it, we’re not seeing the frequency of returns now that we have in the past; 36 FBS teams had a touchback rate of 50% or higher last season. UCLA led the country with a 75% touchback rate. We’re already well on our way to kickoffs being a formality – the only real casualty of this that I can foresee would be the sneaky onside kick where you line it up as if you’re kicking it deep and then kick a dribbler that you have a chance to fall on with the receiving team out of position.

          • The facemask was not a fundamental change to the strategy of the game. It was an equipment requirement made for safety. Horsecollar tackling isn’t fundamentally sound football and is dirty play (horsecollar tackling should have always been called as unnecessary roughness just as high hits on a defenseless player should have always been personal fouls).

            Maybe I’m not making myself clear. Removing the kickoff changes the strategy of the game. I think that’s bad for the game. If the powers that be decide to eliminate the kickoff, the replacement is either the ball gets placed on the 20, 25, or 30 (whatever) after a score or the receiving team gets to choose whether they want the kicking team to kick or have the ball placed at the established spot.

            If the kicking team gets to decide, then you have to be able to field the kick, and I would suggest have the ability to return it.

            • hailtogeorgia

              Well, for the first six years that the facemask penalty existed, you could still tackle the ball carrier by his facemask, but I digress…

              I get the point you’re making, and I agree that it would be a relatively major change to the game. I would miss watching kick returns. Having said that, safety trumps and if the numbers are really that skewed as far as injuries occurring on kickoffs, then it’s hard to argue with that point.

              Where I disagree is with your either/or scenario. I can’t see a situation where the receiving team would get to choose if they want the ball placed at a certain spot or want to opt for the team to kick to them instead. The kicking team always gets to choose strategy on a kickoff. If they want to try an onside kick, they can do so, but it’s with the inherent risk that not recovering the ball puts the opposing team much closer to their end zone. As long as there’s a hard and fast rule that the kicking team either can choose to attempt an onside kick or the ball will be placed at a set yard line, I don’t see how there’s an issue with continuing to allow an onside kick within the rules.

              • I get your perspective, but what qualifies as a legal onside kick? Can it not go beyond 15 yards, 20 yards, etc.? Otherwise, I can squib the kick just beyond the fielding team to recover. If there’s no risk of return, i can tell the kicking team just to go as hard as possible at the ball. I would only agree with this if the kicking spot was moved back to 20 or so to make the risk only reasonable late in the game and to be unsuccessful put the receiving team immediately into scoring position.

                I understand the data that says the kickoff is the play where injuries are most likely to occur. I want to see the game be safer, but I just think that happens by better teaching (and execution) of fundamentals.

                • hailtogeorgia

                  They’d obviously need to iron out the finer points around what would qualify as a legal onside kick. I’d guess something around it having to hit the ground within the first ten yards, along with the standard onside kick formation?

                  Another option would be to essentially handle it like a rugby union play. Start the ball between the hash marks on the 25 (position between the hashes could be up to the ‘kicking/defending’ team) with the defenders five or ten yards off the ball. Start running with the possibility of lateraling and wherever you get tackled is where you start the drive. It’s not perfect, of course, but there are options that could be explored that would still allow for excitement while maintaining safety as an area of focus.

              • Otto

                There is a difference in eliminating a phase of the game and the way the game is played. For instance eliminating Night Train lane hits was probably needed. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-network-top-ten/09000d5d81118473/Top-10-Most-Feared-Tacklers-Dick-Night-Train-Lane

        • BWD

          wasn’t the forward pass legalized in an effort to make the game safer?

      • The other thing I would say is if officials would just enforce the rules around unnecessary roughness consistently and coaches insist on fundamental, heads-up tackling, there would be no need for any other changes to the rules. By the way, we could get rid of the damn ridiculous targeting rule.

  2. Walt

    I think its only a matter of time before the NCAA bans kickoffs altogether. Just like its only a matter of time before someone on this blog laments the “pussification” of the college football.

  3. doofusdawg

    It would certainly make the offseason more palatable.

  4. ASEF

    If you eliminate the kickoff, you eliminate onside kicks and kickoff returns, both of which played a huge role in the national championship game last year. A kickoff return arguably cost Auburn a national championship in 2013. 3 kickoff fumbles over that past two years have played a huge role in Bama’s losses to Ole Miss. Against GT two years ago, Georgia misplayed a return and then gave GT one last shot with a squib.

    I’d hate to see it go

    • Good post, ASEF. My point exactly. Missing Todd Gurley take a kick 105 yards would be a terrible thing. I would add that Sony’s fumble on the Tennessee kickoff at the end of the 1st half completely changed the momentum of the game as well.

    • hailtogeorgia

      Agreed on all points except for eliminating onside kicks. I don’t see how taking out the kickoff (kicking it deep) would eliminate onside kicks, as they’re decidedly different plays and I’d venture to say that the number of injuries on an onside kick are pretty low.

      • PTC DAWG

        Where is the element of surprise if you cannot kick it deep? Some onside kicks are just that, a surprise.

      • Brandon

        I’m going to take it you’ve never played competitive football, or at least not been involved in any onside kicks. There are players on the “kick” team who’s specific responsibility is to blow up whoever that ball is coming to before they get the chance to secure it. These athletes today can get to full speed in 2-3 steps… it doesn’t take 20 yards to “get a head of steam”

        • hailtogeorgia

          That’s a nice red herring you have there. Of course players can hit hard, it’s football, but don’t act like an onside kick and a traditional kickoff are in the same arena (see what I did there?) as far as potential safety of players involved.

  5. Ricky McDurden

    Well, at least we wouldn’t have to lament any more errant pooch kicking decisions after the fact.

  6. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    While we have iMac it would screw us as a receiving team, but would help us, probably, on kickoffs. And we’d only need a kicker for punts and FGs. I don’t really hate the idea except I like watching Isaiah run them back but he won’t be here forever.

  7. Rampdawg

    More pussificatiion of the game.SHEEEZ!! Where will it end?

  8. sUGArdaddy

    Schiano’s idea for the NFL was interesting:

    “Goodell and Rich McKay, the head of the league’s competition committee, discussed an idea brought up by Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano in which a team, instead of kicking off, would get the ball at its own 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. The team then would punt the ball away or, to replace an onside kick, could go for it and, if it failed to get a first down, the opposing squad would start with great field position.”

    That’d be very interesting. You could also fake the punt, the equivalent of the surprise onside kick. It would take an element out of the game, but still give the return team an actual chance to return it. IMac would make a lot of money at the next level.

    I like this idea much better than just giving the team the ball at the 30 or whatever. I really don’t like that.

  9. Otto

    What will they replace an onside kick with? 3 rounds of rock paper scissors?

    No keep the kickoff, sad we’re to the point of even talking about this.

  10. CMR

    Soft serve ice cream, just like me

  11. Rampdawg

    It is pussyfying it. So there you are.

  12. Legatedawg

    If they do this, they had better change the name of the sport.

  13. VoxDawg

    Mrs. Vox says screw the concussions – where would we scream “Go Dawgs, Sic ’em! Woofwoofwoof!”?

  14. Let the kicker kick and wherever it first touches the ground, spot the ball there. If it goes into the end zone, take it to the 25 yard line. If someone from the receiving team touches the ball before it hits the ground, the ball is live.

    • JCDAWG83

      Wouldn’t that effectively do away with the onside kick? The ball would be placed about a yard in front of the tee since that is where it would first touch the ground.

      The whole idea seems ridiculous to me. Football will never be entirely safe, if it ever is, it will become uninteresting.

  15. Change the formation so that people aren’t able to run full speed before they hit each other. Require more people on the line of scrimmage for the receiving team and reduce the no mans land area to 5 yards.

  16. Debby Balcer

    If you eliminate the highest level of injury play just to lower injuries you then have another type of play that takes its place; do you eliminate that play to in order to make the game safer? You can change the play without eliminatibg it. Kickoffs are one of the most exciting and game changing types of play. I hope they leave things alone.

  17. Macallanlover

    I would favor the elimination of kickoffs, would miss the onside kick option, but worth the sacrifice. Would also like the rules committee to consider:

    Make the QB make a legit effort to an eligible receiver, throw must be within 5 yards (yeah, judgement but we know when he is dumping it) unless he is hit in the act of throwing to cause an errant pass. Tired of seeing great defensive plays negated by a throw in the stands. And actualize penalize QBs for intentional grounding, ten yards from the point of throwing. There is NO penalty currently, crazy.
    Eliminate the block in the back if above the waist, and the player is not stationary. No injury risk, just bad calls and negating good returns. Will speed up the game.
    Consider requiring teams to go for TDs & FDs on drives that start inside the red zone, twenty yard line. No more chip shot FGs, although an exception could be made with under 2 minutes in the half. More excitement for spectators.

  18. John Denver is full of shit...

    While we are at pussification, can we stop waving red pom poms in the dawg house, shit.

    • John Denver is full of shit...

      The same fans that talk about jersey colors being fake juice are standing there on Saturdays waving a pom pom.

  19. Hardcoredawg 93

    I think instead of two hand touch, a player should be down if the ball carrier’s shadow is touched by a defensive player. Turn the whole field into a safe space. That way, the ball carrier won’t get his (or is it her?) feelings hurt.

  20. TMC DAWG

    This is a contact sport. Do not use the helment to tackle. Use your shoulders. Some of the most violent hits have been legal ones. A game for men not pussies. Do not put on the equipment if you can’t take the heat. Kickoff has been part of the game since inception I believe.

  21. 69Dawg

    How about no kickoffs until the last 2 minutes of the half or EOG. If a team scores during the last ? minutes of the half or of the game the scoring team may kick off. This would only eliminate the unexpected onside kicks that happen. The law of unintended consequences seems to point to teams that get behind will have less chance to come back.