Times are changing in college football.
The NCAA followed in the NFL’s footsteps and opted to change the kickoff rules, effective for the 2012 football season. The new rules move the kickoff to the 35-yard line (from the 30) and move touchbacks on free kicks to the 25-yard line.
For Nebraska, this presents a new challenge.
The Huskers have been known for their elite kickers and punters, and this will open up a new strategy. All-Big Ten kicker Brett Maher, who booted a number of touchbacks last season, may be asked to try and pin the opposing return team inside their own 10-yard line, but not allow a touchback to try and capitalize on field position.
The new touchback rule doesn’t apply for punts, missed field goals or fumbles out of the end zone, essentially limiting this new rule to kickoffs and post-safety punts.
Another element of the rule change restricts the running-start kicking team players get from 10 yards to 5 yards in an attempt to cut down on concussions and other injuries on kickoffs. For players like Eric Martin, who are special teams stand-outs that fly down the field at opposing returners, this rule is extremely limiting.
The rules are designed to provide incentive for receiving teams to take a knee and avoid the violent return game, adding an additional five yards onto last season’s 20-yard touchback. While that is the rule’s intended effect, one wonders if teams will simply change how they handle kickoffs and try and keep teams from advancing to the 25.
For the Huskers, one thing is clear: Maher can nail a touchback just about every single time. The question now is: do they want him to?
By Chris Peters
Contact the writer at [email protected] or on Twitter @_ChrisPeters
Follow Husker Corner on Twitter @HuskerCorner
Friend Husker Corner on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Huskercorner