Monday, July 16, 2007

Back it Up!

Goodbye 35-yard line

The NCAA rules committee has made two significant changes for the 2007 season, that will of course affect Ivy football games as well.

First, the new timing rules that went into effect last year that ran the clock as soon as the ball was kicked off and even after changes of possession are now null and void. Too many coaches complained about the significant drop in the average number of total plays per college game.

Second, kickoffs will now be from the 30 yard line, not the 35, mirroring a decision the NFL made about 16 years ago. I'm not sure if the reasoning behind this decision -- to encourage more exciting kickoff returns -- holds water in most NCAA conferences, where touchbacks are pretty rare anyway. I usually only see one or two touchbacks in entire Ivy seasons season as it is, so I expect a lot of Ivy teams to either recruit some serious "boomer-types" or kickoff-only specialists, or simply get their kickers to work on hang time a lot more in order to let the coverage teams get ready.

Part of me thinks this change will help mostly Cornell greatly this season, as they have the best kick returner in the league with rising sophomore Bryan Walters. Walters darn near pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat for the Big Red against Columbia last year with a super punt return inside Lion territory late in the game.

Of course,these kinds of rules changes often have very unexpected consequences, so it's not a sure thing that kicking from further away will create more spectacular returns.

But I do expect most teams to enjoy better starting field position, which may not be a bad thing in a league that's becoming a dominated by defense.


At Mon Jul 16, 12:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No question that the two rule changes will help the offense dramatically. The kick-off rule change is likely to give the offense much better field position than before so the offense is more likely to throw the ball immediately than in prior years. The importance of teams having a strong kickoff and return game is obvious. Unlike the pros, nearly all kickoffs will be returned now from between the ten to the twenty-five yard line which will encourage all kinds of razzle dazzle such as handoffs, reverses and who knows what else. On the defensive side, the speed of the coveage will be critical. There might even be times the defense will opt to kick the ball out of bounds to avoid a long runback.

At Mon Jul 16, 07:04:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope we had the kickers hit the weights in the offseason. Neither guy has an ultra strong leg by modern standards. Didn't see too many kickoffs to the 5yd line for us last year. That would be a big weapon if freshman kid from Minny has a howizter...

At Mon Jul 16, 08:57:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

That's an interesting point about kicking off out of bounds on purpose. According to the rule book, the penalty will remain the same when teams do this:

Rule 6-2-1-Penalty

"Penalty for a free kick out of bounds altered to be five yards from the previous spot or the receiving team awarded the ball 35 yards beyond Team A’s restraining line."

Rationale: This change is in relation to the kickoff spot being moved to the 30-yard line. The committee decided that the penalty for a kickoff out of bounds should remain at the 35-yard line (or 35 yards from the spot it was kicked). Teams also have the option of moving the kicking team back five yards and kicking again.

I'm not sure how many teams will look a gift horse in the mouth and force the opposing team to kickoff from the 25 instead of starting at the 35. I think that if the NCAA starts seeing this happen too often, the penalty should change from getting the ball at the 35 to taking it at the 40.

At Mon Jul 16, 08:59:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Another result of this might be more fumbled kickoffs, as more up-men with less than stellar ball handling abilities find themselves having to catch high kickoffs.

At Mon Jul 16, 11:02:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This will lead to more bounce type kick-offs which will likely lead to more fumbles as up men try to hold on for dear life. all in all, a lousy rule for a strong defensive team like ours.

At Mon Jul 16, 11:03:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least Walters is in Arts and Sciences and is not a ringer from the Ag school or hotel admin.

At Mon Jul 16, 11:10:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

"all in all, a lousy rule for a strong defensive team like ours."

I'm not so sure, remember that Columbia really forced a lot of turnovers last season and really seemed to get a knack for it, this could lead to more opportunities.


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