Not surprisingly, the NCAA’s new kickoff-return rules are producing tons of touchbacks. Through Oct. 6, there were 1,450 touchbacks in the Football Bowl Subdivision, eclipsing 1,397 touchbacks that were registered through the entire 2011 season.
Earlier this year, the NCAA Football Rules Committee moved kickoffs from the 30-yard-line to the 35-yard line in hopes of reducing injuries, especially concussions.
“Everyone is in chase mode on kickoff returns,” said Rogers Redding, NCAA Football Rules Committee secretary-rules editor and national coordinator of college football officials. “Before the return starts, the kicking team is flying down the field and the receiving team players are running back to protect the runner. There are some collisions, but mainly, the more significant collisions happen on the return and not the kick.”
Redding added that another tweak in the rules is also having a positive effect – moving the start position for a team that takes a touchback from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line. This has led to fewer kickoffs being returned, since data has shown that when a player brings the ball out of the end zone, the offense usually starts inside the 25-yard line, according to the NCAA.