College football to implement rule that will encourage touchbacks


HOOVER, Ala. – College football is in the middle of a two-year rules cycle, meaning only changes for safety reasons can be implemented for this season.

There are several, and kicking teams are the focus.

To curtail the violent collisions on kick returns, touchbacks will be encouraged. Kickoffs will move to the 35-yard line from the 30, and touchbacks will come out to the 25, not the 20.

“It’s a play with a higher level of potential injury than a regular scrimmage down,” said Steve Shaw, SEC coordinator of officials, said Wednesday at the conference’s media days.

Florida coach Will Muschamp said his team will work on the sky kick.

“We talked about directional kicks with height to see if we can pin them back even further,” he said.

Also on kickoffs, the high-bounce onside kick likely will go away with a rule that affords the receiver protection against the hit. A receiver can now catch the ball without interference.

“That will take the one-hop kick out of the game,” Shaw said.

In the punting game, a returner will be protected by a modified halo. He’ll have a protected space of 1 yard in front of him, shoulder width across . The intent is to have the defensive player break down to make the tackle _ not fly into the ball carrier even if he was 2 yards away when the ball was caught.

“They were trying to time (the hit) to blow up the receiver,” Shaw said. “This will be safer for the defenseless player.”

Another punt rule change: A rusher cannot leap over the shield that protects the punter in order to block the punt.

College football is also trying to keep helmets on players. If a player loses his helmet during a play, he’ll sit out one snap.

“It’s almost been an alarming rate they’ve been coming off,” Shaw said. “It’s becoming a significant issue.”

A player who loses his helmet will be allowed to continue his action, but if he continues with the play beyond that continuing action, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.

“We’ve seen a play, the lineman is rushing, his helmet comes off, the quarterback scrambles out, he goes chasing,” Shaw said. “Now that’s a foul.”


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