Chicago, Ill. – Every year it seems that the NCAA adds or changes one or two rules to the college football game and some go nearly unnoticed while others make a large impact. One of the new rules that fans will get a chance to see this year will be pretty significant when kickoffs are moved from the 35 to the 30 yard line (the same as the NFL).
During Big Ten media days several of the coaches had a chance to sound off on the change and what impact they feel that the new rule will have on the game and if the change will increase the number of kickoff returns from 2006 to 2007.
"It's interesting, over the last three or four years, we probably had 75 percent of our kickoffs as touchbacks and they would have been touchbacks from the 30 (yard-line)," Jim Tressel said. "But then all of a sudden you move it to the 30 (yard-line) and the guys things you have to hit if further."
Have the Buckeyes seen any tangible changes since having to practice for the new ball placement?
"It seems like this spring practice, we had less balls hit to the goal line in the past," Tressel said. "I don't know, it's going to be interesting to see our kickers evolve to that. I think they'll get used to it because they're very capable of still hitting the ball very deep and very high and very far. But I think anytime you change the norm, you'll see a little effect and, I kind of wish they changed it last year when No. 7 was in there running in the back, but nevertheless, it'll be interesting to see the change."
Several other of the Big Ten coaches feel that there will be a significant change with the possibility of less kicks being downed in the end zone for a touchback.
"I believe that when they changed the rule, it had a bigger impact on the game then they had thought," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Now there won't be as many kicks into the end zone and you will have to run five more yards to cover. The ball will be coming out quicker and more effectively. I'm a little bit of a defensive coach so I wasn't really in favor of the change. You will need to have great speed and it will make it more critical for teams to have a kicker who can put it in the endzone."
While the new head coach of Michigan State was not totally in favor of it another first year head coach likes the change.
"I like the rule change, I really do because it puts one of the most exciting plays back into the game of football," Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. "There are so many touchbacks from a ball being kicked off on the 35-yard line. If you move it back to the 30 and the ball is going to be in play, your kickoff return units area going to have to be outstanding. Your field position should certainly be a little bit better. Where it puts tremendous pressure is on your coverage units. Your coverage units are going to have to be that much better and we're going to have to be seeking out outstanding kickers. But all in all, it's a good rule change and it's going to be great for the fans."