“… there’s no kid that’s ever sat back there on a kickoff and waved fair catch on the 1-yard line…”

You may have heard that the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel just passed several new rules, the most prominent of which allows the receiving team to fair catch a kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.

This, of course, means the end of directional kicking as we know it (Jon Fabris would be turning in his grave, if he were in one, figuratively speaking).

Kirby suggests the obvious:

Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship ranked second in the SEC and eighth nationally in touchback percentage last season at 71.3 percent (67 of 94). The national average was 42.4 percent, according to SI.com.

The Bulldogs ranked fourth in the SEC in kickoff return defense at 19.5.

“It could minimize the value of a good kicker,” Smart said. “If your kicker kicks a 4.4 (second) hang (time) to the 5-yard line, that’s a huge weapon because you couldn’t fair catch it. …It could take the weapon away. But we never told Rodrigo to kick it high and short. We told him to kick it out of the end zone. That’s what we want him to do.”

Just when Georgia gets its collective shit together on kickoff coverage… and on the receiving side?

Smart was asked if the rule change will alter Georgia’s approach.

“It’s not going to change anything,” Smart said. “We’re going to prepare for it and higher, shorter kicks will be fair caught. Kicks that we don’t think we can get to the 25, we’ll be better off fair catching. A lot of it depends on what type kicker you’re facing.”

And type of coverage team, too.  Which makes me wonder if there will be any change in special teams philosophy.  When the odds of actually having to cover a kick return decrease dramatically — and you have to think that 42.4% national average for touchbacks is about to go way up — does that affect your approach to constructing and coaching kickoff return teams?


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics, The NCAA

26 responses to ““… there’s no kid that’s ever sat back there on a kickoff and waved fair catch on the 1-yard line…”

  1. Will Trane

    Let’s play flag football or two hand touch.
    NCAA has made some good changes in the past.
    This is clearly not one.
    One that was poorly thought out.
    If this rule stands, then institute this rule. Place the kickoff where it goes out of bounds.
    No penalty for a kick out of bounds.


    • rchris

      Wonder what Devon Gales thinks.


      • Devon Gales’s injury had zero to do with being on a kickoff other than that was the play in which the injury occurred and everything to do with not playing heads up football. It was a terrible injury, but it was completely preventable. Gales attempted to block Morgan and dropped his head to lead his block with his helmet. I just went back and watched the video on YouTube at full speed and then the slo-mo replay from the SEC Network. The kick was fairly deep into the end zone in a 48-6 rout and should have been downed for a touchback.

        Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, but most of the traumatic injuries happen in the game due to poor fundamentals especially regarding the use of the helmet as a weapon rather than for safety.


    • Castleberry

      I like this idea. I also wondered if Kirby was maybe sending a message to Ken Blankenship


    • James Payne

      The receiving team gets the ball at the 35 yard line if the kick goes out of bounds, so that would not be a solution. Maybe they need to explore refining the squib kick technique more so that it could be used to make things exciting once in a while, and keep the opponent off balance – Jim Payne, class of 1973.


      • Castleberry

        The way I’m reading Will’s idea the receiving team gets the ball where it goes out. So – why wouldn’t that be a solution?


      • Chopdawg

        That might happen…have your kicker line-drive the ball, so the ball hits on the 20. Try to create some havoc.


  2. Derek

    Why bother? Give the kicking team the option of placing the ball at the 25. That will eliminate everything except onside kicks at the end of the game.


    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      But then onside kicks will be telegraphed, and be less effective. Sure, many teams anticipate onside kicks, but if there is no other reason to line up, even Paul Johnson can figure it out.

      I sort of hate the rule, but it has a couple of potential silver linings. First, there is the matter of reducing injuries, and that is not insignificant. But I like the idea that we might reduce the number of times we have a big return but it gets called back because of a block in the back or holding penalty. Kirby says they are still going to return kicks where they think they can get past the 25. To me, that means kicks of any kind where the protection is in place like it should be. We have a guy with wheels, and don’t need to take the wheels completely; just use them smarter.


  3. Lrgk9

    Make kicks through the end zone or fair caught in the end zone start on the 20.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. merk

    Even better, move it to the 40 and if the kicker makes the ball through the uprights, give the team a point and the receiving team gets the ball at the 25. Once again, this will lead to longer kicks and more touchbacks, while also allowing for teams to have a benefit for a good kicker.


  5. Whiskeydawg

    The NCAA is clearly worried about college football being so popular. Rule changes like these will reduce viewership and bring the game down to a place where the NCAA feels competent enough to manage it again. Next, year, the prolate spheroid shaped football will be replaced with a pillow composed of 100% fowl less natural material and the team uniforms padless flannel. The game played on the confines of a carefully sifted sandbox.


    • Gaskilldawg

      This rule change has zero affect on my interest in Georgia football. This rul3 change has zero affect on whether I buy tickets o4 watch the games.


  6. The Dawg abides

    Just put both touchbacks and fair catches on the twenty. The whole point a few years back of bringing it out to the 25 was to discourage kicking through the endzone to add excitement to kickoffs. Now they want to go in the opposite direction, so it makes sense to put it back on the twenty.


  7. ASEF

    For teams like Georgia with insane athletic depth, odds of locking a team down at the 10 go up. Unless they can just fair catch it.

    Step 2 towards eliminating kick offs entirely.


  8. DoubleDawg1318

    I generally liked the other minor tweaks that they approved. I detest this new rule on kickoffs though. It takes most of the remaining life out of the kick offs and punishes programs who have good special teams.


  9. Ole Dokes

    Paging Logan gray for “quality” analyst, paging Logan Gray…


  10. UGA '97

    Theres nothing worse than when you are behind and just scored a late TD with all the momentum and the other team fumbles the return b/c of a great special teams hit….wait sorry …”Ball will be placed at the 25 yard line…was a fair catch” . Now Mecole’s all purpose yards this year just went down. Will be interesting if squib kicking increases.


  11. Cojones

    Looks like fans will attend more HS games to see the kickoffs.

    So now the NFL takes big hits in the PR dept for allowing an exciting part of the game to continue while the gore is added up.

    Long and low laser kicks will be coming more into play to prevent the fair catch while injuries may go up since they won’t exactly get a clean runback play and will be susceptible to injury during the scramble for the ball. “Hang time” will become “Greased Pigskin time” or “Slither time” when trying to put an opponent into a hole. The kickers that get the ball fast and low to the 25 and make it hop will be in great demand.


  12. Uglydawg

    If they change this rule, they should also make it mandatory to field the kick if you put that hand up. You call fair catch, you must catch it. (unless it hits ..not bounces…out of bounds.) If it hits in the field of play it’s fair game.


    • hailtogeorgia

      Don’t think this is really necessary. It’s a kickoff, not a punt, so the ball is up for grabs anyway as soon as it goes ten yards. Calling fair catch and not actually catching the ball would be terrible strategy; once the player calls fair catch, they can’t block or hit anyone on the other team, and if they don’t actually catch the ball, it’s just a live ball on the ground.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. TnDawg

    Football is changing. And I don’t like the changes. Sad to see. Put flags on em and forget about tackling. That’s next.


  14. AusDawg85

    I have a very high degree of confidence that there will be a huge rules interpretation mishap of this, and it will go against Georgia in a big game.


  15. CB

    In this climate I would no longer have a problem with Richt playing bad players on kickoff teams.