Skin in the kickoff game

If you’ve watched any Alliance of American Football action (and before you ask, I haven’t), you may have noticed an absence of kickoffs.

The AAF debuted last weekend without toe meeting pigskin following scores. Offenses simply took over at the 25-yard line. No high-speed blocks, tackles or collisions. Definitely no injuries.

“It felt a little awkward,” said Atlanta Legends coach Kevin Coyle, a veteran of more than 40 college and pro seasons. “For me personally, it felt strange not to kickoff and cover the kick.”

Obviously no kickoffs = less injury chances, which has started another drum beat about what college football ought to do about that.

The thing is, the rule changes already enacted have had their desired effect.

  • For the first time since the NCAA began tracking such numbers, less than half of all kickoffs — only 42 percent — were returned last season.
  • For at least the fifth straight year, touchbacks are up. The 2018 total of 4,273 was up almost 28 percent since 2013.
  • The total number of kickoffs returned for touchdowns is down almost half from 72 in 2012 to 38 in 2018.
  • Kickoff return yards are down 42.2 percent since 2011. That was the last season before the kickoff was moved from the 30 to the 35-yard line.

Still, that’s probably not satisfying for the all or nothing crowd.  So what’s an NCAA rules committee to do?  Well, if you’re Steve Shaw, you raise an interesting defense of the status quo.

“Imagine Georgia-Florida and the place is up for grabs and we just jog out and put it on the ground,” he said. “I think we want to do everything we can do to protect the play.”

That’s the most empowered I’ve ever felt about an NCAA rule change.

By the way, thanks for getting the name of the game right, Steve.

27 Comments

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

27 responses to “Skin in the kickoff game

  1. I haven’t watched either … for people who are watching, what are they doing in place of an onside kick?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mp

      They set up the “kicking team” to have 4th and 12 at their own 28.

      If you ask me (which no one has), I think the answer is to treat each kick off as a 4th and 10 from your own 35 (or maybe 4th and 15 from your own 30?) and give teams the option between going for it or punting. Eliminates the onside kick, but just it’s not “jog out and put it on the ground.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Uglydawg

        4th from the 28? That’s pretty good FG range. Any lead less than 4 would be in gifted jeopardy. You can backtrack from there and see how the whole strategy of the last few series would change for both teams.
        “One cannot mash a butterfly without touching a star”, or something like that.

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      • I have thought 4th and 15 on the 40 would be the way to go (35 + 10 for the onside kick – 5 as a penalty for doing an onside kick). Too difficult to use throughout the game … worth the risk if you are trying to mount a comeback.

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        • The Dawg abides

          There’s a set of parameters for when a team kicking off can us the option. I read it as when trailing by 17 or more during the game, or when behind by any amount under five minutes left in the game. One thing this does is eliminate a “surprise” onside kick.

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  2. Go Dawgs!

    College football has led the way on making rules to make the game more safe, and it’s definitely evident with the changes to kickoffs. I don’t think there is any need to go further with it. College’s kickoff rule works better than the NFL’s, as do the rules for targeting and defenseless players (especially with the booth able to initiate a targeting foul… our good friends in New Orleans probably wish the booth could initiate a helmet to helmet call). I’m all for a safer kickoff rule, but it’s been diluted enough. I hope that we never see it go away, because the onside kick play is too important to a team trying to make a comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. DawgPhan

    Kick-offs are boring and pointless. Just give the ball to the offense and lets keep it moving.

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    • This was pretty exciting and relevant.

      As was this.

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      • DawgPhan

        Kick offs result in TDs around 1% of the time.

        UGA scores tds on about 6% of their rushing attempts.

        11% of passing attempts.

        It’s is a waste of time and effort that could be directed towards a much higher return activity.

        I also don’t think I have ever been witness to anything close to Devon gales on a non kickoff play.

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        • Go Dawgs!

          I don’t know if you consider outfielders converging on a fly ball to be a “non-kickoff play” but in Athens, Georgia there have been just as many Gales-type injuries resulting from fly balls in baseball as there have been from kickoffs or punts.

          And that’s not to say that kickoffs or punts aren’t dangerous plays and that everything should be done to make them as safe as possible. It IS to say that a freak injury shouldn’t be the basis of an argument to ban a certain play. I’m much more inclined to worry about concussion-inducing hits on those plays which can lead to long-term health consequences. And compared to the speed of collisions you typically see in a punt or kickoff play, the Gales hit was pretty low speed. Marshall Morgan wasn’t even moving. That same hit and injury could have occurred on most blocking plays in football.

          Liked by 1 person

          • DawgPhan

            Freak injury wasnt my point. My point was that there are other more exciting and fruitful plays that could be run instead of kick returns, which are mostly boring and pointless.

            Reducing catastrophic injuries, is just a nice bonus.

            I know that I was on the edge of my seat every time Hardman was back for a return because he was always so close to breaking one, but he would have likely had a much more fruitful career if all of those returns were converted into pass attempts in his direction.

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        • Darryl Stingley and Jack Tatum if you want an example.

          Regarding Gales, the kid dropped his head into Marshall Morgan. The bigger problem there is that FCS schools shouldn’t be playing FBS schools.

          I get the safety angle, but the play is exciting. One of the reasons everyone moved the kickoff back to the 35 and eventually to the 30 was to bring the return back to the game. The powers that be must have thought it was exciting.

          If we’re going to get rid of the kickoff, move the ball placement to the 20 instead.

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  4. TN Dawg

    I’m really starting to enjoy watching PL rugby on NBCSN.

    Those dudes run around clobbering each other with no pads on. Those guys are tough.

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  5. I watched the Arizona-Memphis game Saturday night. The kickoff thing didn’t bother me. I think more than anything, they really miss not kicking extra points. It is a subtle thing, but the teams are struggling to score points (and are rarely converting for 2 pts) and having a couple extra points to bolster the scores would really help from a perception standpoint. A 21-10 game just feels a lot different than an 18-9 game.

    As far as quality, it is MAC-tion level, but not like the conference winners… more like the middling MAC squads that play on Tuesday night on ESPN3, but with fewer playmakers or interesting plays. Even a middling MAC team has a player or two that can take over the game. There are none of those in the AAF… at least from what I have seen.

    The offenses are putrid. The QB’s are erratic, and when they aren’t, the WR’s can’t catch. The OL is the worst position group on the field. It’s a lot like watching spring scrimmages, actually, where the defenses play well based on talent rather than scheme and the offenses are trying to figure out what works and typically finding not much.

    The one thing they got right, besides hiring Spurrier, was that the game was over in 2.5 hours. I think this would be an interesting arena to try more spread/option based offenses to get something going offensively. Either that, or maybe just play 7-on-7. The DL’s are absolutely destroying the OLs right now, so until they get that figured out, the game will be very lackluster.

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  6. I like the no kickoff rule. After a score, they run about a 30 second commercial and are back to running plays, much more efficient. I also don’t miss the “usual” block in the back penalty and crummy starting position. The chance to get the ball back replacing the onside kick is only available when you are down a certain number of points with time running down in the 4th; I haven’t seen that done yet. Game moves along at a fast clip and there are no TV generated timeouts. The offenses will improve as the OL gets some experience, defenses are definitely ahead. Seemed to be fewer penalties this past weekend but I didn’t watch as much.

    Whomever owns the Atlanta team is going to kill their chances at success if they leave Sims at QB and Murray on the bench. They have scored 1 offensive TD in two games, nice decision there coach. And now you are coming up on your home opener? No running game and a guy who couldn’t hold onto the starting job at TN as your QB. I am enjoying watching Spurrier and Neuheisal’s teams, they seem to be able to move the ball.

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    • DawgPhan

      You are right about the Atlanta team. They stink and the only UGA player they signed is sitting on the bench. While the other teams in the league seemed to focus on players from their area Atlanta didnt. The Alabama team has a ton of Bama and Auburn players. The Florida team has a ton of florida/FSU/UCF players. i dont know why they, just like the falcons, seem to want to distance themselves from UGA.

      See senator, I can agree with Macallanlover on the rare occasion he is right about something. 😉

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      • The Dawg abides

        Murray, Damien Swann, Quincy Mauger. Plus 6 Tech guys, 2 each from Georgia Southern and Valdosta State, and players from West Georgia and Clark-Atlanta.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bright Idea

      If no kickoffs mean no long TV timeouts then go for it. I have a feeling that won’t happen.

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  7. MDDawg

    One aspect of eliminating kickoffs which I don’t see discussed much (if at all) is how it would affect practices. Especially in college where you have the 20-hour rule (HAHAHA!). I’m guessing it varies from team to team, but I’d be curious to see how much practice time is devoted kickoffs each week. Now imagine that time being freed up to get more reps on offense/defense, assuming they wouldn’t spend even more time on punts or FGs/PATs.

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    • If you use our team as the example, I’m guessing we don’t spend much time at all on KO coverage because of the assumption that Hot Rod was going to kick it through the end zone every time. Our coverage last year left something to be desired the few times when Rod didn’t kick the ball into the end zone.

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  8. Salty Dawg

    I watch the AAL games and enjoy it. I like the no kickoff for them, but for me personally, no thanks! Why, you may or may not ask? Because if they do away with it in CFB, what would we yell if it’s not, ‘GOOOOOO DAWGS! SIC ‘EM! WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!’ I would not want to have to get rid of that at the start of the game! That is everything!

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