CFB rule change to essentially eliminate onside kicks

Submitted by Drill on July 18th, 2012 at 7:28 PM

After a kickoff hits the ground — specifically on a one-hop onside kick — the receiving team gets an opportunity to fair catch that ball. "A lot of our coaches," Shaw said, "have said that will almost take that one-hop (onside) kick out of the game."

So while the dribble up the middle could potentially still work, all a team will need to do is make sure that they have one guy in the middle watching to wave for a fair catch if they one-hop it, and to cover it up the middle if they dribble it.

There are some other big rule changes there too, but that is probably the biggest.



July 18th, 2012 at 7:37 PM ^

SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw outlined significant rule changes coming to college football this season, all rooted in player safety. These rules, by the way, were approved in February.


July 18th, 2012 at 7:33 PM ^

This is a pretty big change:


Kickers will kick from the 35-yard line and not the 30 and a touchback will now be brought to the 25-yard line and not the 20-yard line. This is, in part, to eliminate collisions on kickoffs, part of the wave of player safety sweeping through football.

This makes the decision to return kicks into the end zone a much closer call. Usually it's not hard to return it to the 20, but the 25 is tougher to get to, especially when the kicking team has five fewer yards to go.


July 19th, 2012 at 2:18 AM ^

It's only out of Michigan's sense of fairness and respect for the game that we don't see Denard on the kicking team for the purpose of catching all kickoffs.

Seeing the same play repeated constantly for 60 minutes might be fun for us Michigan fans, but the rest of the college football world would tire of it quickly.


Mich to kickoff...Here's the kick...Touchdown Michigan!

Mich to kickoff...Here's the kick...Touchdown Michigan!

Mich to kickoff...Here's the kick...Touchdown Michigan!

Mich to kickoff...Here's the kick...Touchdown Michigan!

Mich to kickoff...Here's the kick...Touchdown Michigan!



Ali G Bomaye

July 19th, 2012 at 11:13 AM ^

Since the clock doesn't start in NCAA football until a kickoff is touched by a player, and it would take approximately one second for Denard to catch a kick at the 5-10 yard line and run into the end zone:

60 minutes * 60 seconds * 7 points = 25,200 points possible in a game

Of course, we would score slightly less than that, as we would receive the kickoff once and have to drive down the field.  Also, this assumes that Gibbons doesn't run out of brunette imagery and miss an extra point now and then.


July 18th, 2012 at 8:11 PM ^

I know your suggestion was made in the sarcasm mode, but I could see this happening.  Every drive would start out on the twenty or the twenty-five.  They wouldn't need kickoff or return teams.  I can't see them messing up punts this badly, though.  

If they want to really make the game safe for players, they need to stop rewarding players for hitting hard.  Somewhere along the line, "tackling" became "hitting the player as hard as humanly possible."  If they took fumbles out of the game and called a lot of unnecessary roughness penalties, they would get their desired effect.  

One thing they could do right now is to eject a player for slamming a player to the ground.  The ground can't cause a fumble anyway, so the only reason for doing it is to hurt the other player.  A lot of QB injuries don't happen on the original hit, but on the second hit as the player pounds the QB into the turf.  

It's an interesting quandry, though.  Every time a rule is put in to protect players, the fans and media, especially those who have never actually played, bemoan the "lack of toughness."  It's easy to find a defensive player or two for inflammatory quotes, and any player who speaks up and agrees with the changes is seen as "soft."  



July 18th, 2012 at 10:17 PM ^

Hitting a player hard has always and will always be part of the game, and therefore there will always be injuries. Football is a heavy contact sport.

HOWEVA (i said HOWEVA) there is truth in what you say in that players focus more on hitting than tackling, to the detriment of health and also to the detriment of defense. This is taken directly from one of the coaches I consult with in my attempts to not sound like an idiot: If you put every defensive player in high school and college football on a technique scale between Jordan Kovacs and Cam Gordon, the overwhelming majority will be with Cam. Coaches can teach how to wrap up and drive through a player and change his center of balance all they want to, but when a player gets the ballcarrier in his line of sight he will revert back to "I'm gonna kill him!"

The funny thing is most great hits are made by the great tacklers. The "big hitters" are usually the ones strewn about the grass while an offensive player is running by.


July 19th, 2012 at 6:59 AM ^

While safety is obviously a huge concern, I think the game of football is walking a slippery slope where, if they go too far to protect the player, they may alter the game to the point where it looses a good bit of its appeal.  There are stupid ways to play the game, like slamming a player to the ground or nailing a defenseless reciever, but adjusting the force you use to hit someone is not such an easy thing to implement,

In tbe NFL, the new kickoff rules, have really neutered a fun portion of the game, and it looks like that will also happen in college come this fall.


July 18th, 2012 at 9:01 PM ^

I actually heard someone fairly high up (forgot who) propose to start the ball on the 40 yard line 4th and 10 for every series.  The team could then punt or run a play to try and pick up the firstdown in place of an onside -- thus eliminating kickoffs completely.

Personally, I must be getting old, I do not like any of these rule changes.


July 18th, 2012 at 10:45 PM ^

No, the current team that kicked off would get the ball again with 4th and 10 on the 40.  Then they can either punt, which would be analagous to a kick off, or go for it which would be analagous to an onside kick.

Jeff M

July 19th, 2012 at 7:31 AM ^

Onside kick success rate is ~15-20%, depending on whether the receiving team is expecting it (it's higher in 1st-3rd quarter situations). Using Mathlete's 4th down calculator, (…) an average offense has about a 27% chance of success on 4th and 10.

So, you're right -- this might make teams go for it too often (a very good offense has a 31% chance of success on 4th and 10). Maybe 4th and 15 would work better?

The important thing is  a team far behind in late game has a small but real chance of coming back. The onside kick play is objectively weird -- it shares little in common with 90% of the other plays that happen in a football game. I'd be all for eliminating kickoffs with a play that better aligns with the rest of the game.


turd ferguson

July 19th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

Interesting.  Thanks for posting that.  If you're bumping up the starting line (for punts/kickoffs) to the 40 yard line, you'd probably want to account for that in the yardage required.  It's less risky to go for it from your own 40 than your own 30, so you'd probably want to offset that with a longer distance required for the first down.

Regardless, to me, this seems like a very good solution to this problem but one that is decades away because fans would be so freaked out by it.

turd ferguson

July 18th, 2012 at 7:47 PM ^

Wow, I hate that onside kick rule.  The rule encouraging touchbacks is fine, given the concussion worries and all, but how many kids really get hurt on onside kicks?  Those kicks are rare enough that I can't imagine there are more than a few serious onside kick injuries per year.  At the same time, that's essentially your only chance of winning if you're down multiple scores late in the game. 

I think the cost to this (excitement lost) far outweighs the benefit (preventing a couple of injuries).


July 18th, 2012 at 8:04 PM ^

Yeah, I totally agree.  On-side kicks don't happen that often, and of the ones that do, you can throw out the ones that are either unexpected or poorly executed, since those have very little contact usually.  This includes the ones where the ball is caught on the fly and the receiver immediately hits the deck. 

I agree that this will really change the end of a two score game. 


July 18th, 2012 at 8:06 PM ^

I agree that this is a bad rule change, but I remember hearing that most coaches/players think that onside kicks are actually the most dangerous play in football.

Just think about it. It's a short 10 yard kick with everyone from the receiving time minus 2 players up around the 45 to recover the kick. And essentially every play results in a giant scrum with everyone fighting and hitting each other desperate for the ball. And there are so many onside kick violations that it has to get redone multiple times sometimes, meaning more chances for injury.…


turd ferguson

July 18th, 2012 at 8:25 PM ^

Interesting, but I think you have to assess possible rule changes from the cost-benefit calculation perspective.  Even if this prevents a few injuries, it essentially renders as over every two-score game where the trailing team doesn't have enough time/timeouts to hold its opponent on defense.  That a hell of a price to pay for preventing a few injuries.  I'd have to imagine that there's a way to prevent the same number of injuries that doesn't so badly compromise the excitement of the game.


July 18th, 2012 at 8:19 PM ^

The ideal onside kick take a large bounce on the 2nd or 3rd bounce, so not sure how this "eliminates onside kicks." Yes some NFL kickers use the one huge bounce "jump-ball" method but I don't remember the last time I saw it used in a college football game.


July 18th, 2012 at 8:22 PM ^

My mental image of the rules people for the NCAA/NFL are a group of 70+ year old guys sitting around a smoke filled board room yelling "Get Off My Lawn" at various still images of fans cheering. 

Zone Left

July 19th, 2012 at 12:29 AM ^

If that were the case, they'd be yelling "get off my lawn" to the people proposing rules changes for player safety. These changes are actually pretty progressive.

As much as I'm not really a fan of the onside rule (the kickoff rule is perfectly fine by me), football has to make changes or it will start to slowly die in popularity because fewer and fewer people will play the sport when they're young. This isn't imminent, but I think it has a chance of happening gradually. Personally, even though I played and I recognize the total hypocracy of a die-hard fan in this statement, I'd be reluctant to let my hypothetical son play the game.

Space Coyote

July 18th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

If a player's helmet comes off while on the field and it's not a result of a foul, that player must leave the game for a play. If you're a player and your helmet comes off during a play, you cannot participate in the rest of that play. "We think that will give them incentive to buckle things up."

This could be big for Denard and other players with "big" hair (for a lack of a better way of putting it), whose helmets come off a little more regularly. Buckle up those chin straps.


July 18th, 2012 at 8:59 PM ^

So if it's the running back whose helmet is removed without a facemask penalty, like during a collision, then it's just a dead ball at the spot of removal, correct? These rule changes are probably going to be confusing at first, especially for players. Can you imagine a lineman losing his helmet and just stopping? My money says nine times out of ten, he's going to keep on a blockin'.


July 18th, 2012 at 8:55 PM ^

So is there a penalty for attempting a fair catch if the onside kick bounces multiple times or would it just be a mulligan? Can multiple people signal for the fair catch once it hits the ground, since the trajectory will probably be unpredictable, assuming the signal has to be given in the split seconds between the ball hitting the ground and being caught?


July 18th, 2012 at 9:19 PM ^

Is this just for the first bounce or does it apply until the ball is touched by the receiving team?

EDIT: Now that I think about it, how  much will this actually change? Technically a fair catch can be called when the ball is popped directly into the air on an onside kick, yet there is no time to do so. Are teams really going to have enough time to even call for a fair catch?


July 18th, 2012 at 9:29 PM ^

That was my first thought too.  Trying to catch and secure the ball after a bounce from 10 yards away wouldn't leave the person catching it with a chance to signal a fair catch.  And because everyone is close, could everyone on the recieving team signal fair catch and be untouchable until the ball hits the ground a second time?


July 18th, 2012 at 9:13 PM ^

These are rule changes that suck but are necessary to keep football in our society.  We'll all be sitting on our porches talking to our grandkids about how violent the game used to be.  I fear that the greatest hits ever are in the past.  This saddens me as a fan but the new "father" in me is kind of glad that my kid will be able to play this great violent sport with less of a chance of serious brain trauma than our generation was unknowingly faced with.


July 18th, 2012 at 9:19 PM ^

I don't know about that. Hockey has gone through a similar cleansing of shots to the head, and there are still plenty of big hits. In fact, the hits are probably bigger now than ever before due to size, strength and speed. You could make a similar statement about football: even limiting head-injury causing plays, you'll have better hits in the future than you will now.

Even if he can't lead with his head, don't you think a 265lb LB who runs a 4.25 40 will have bigger hits in the 2075 Super Bowl than players of today?