Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Apr 2018

NCAA Announces Kickoff Rule Changes

In the interest of promoting player safety, the NCAA has announced kickoff rule changes that will go into effect for the 2018 season. Teams will have the option to elect to signal for a fair catch on kickoffs received inside the team's own 25-yard line, and will be awarded with a touchback and starting field position at the 25-yard line as a result.

Posted by: Brian Fremeau on 13 Apr 2018

12 comments, Last at 21 Apr 2018, 2:52pm by Dan


by jtr :: Fri, 04/13/2018 - 10:31pm

Between this and where the NFL is heading, it's only a matter of time before they skip the play entirely and just award possession on the 25, right? Once you come up with an onside kick substitute (4th and 15 or whatever), it's really a wasted play anyhow.

by Theo :: Sat, 04/14/2018 - 12:16pm

The kickoff, and punt plays determines a lot of the buildup of a roster though.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Sun, 04/15/2018 - 4:07pm

Less of a factor in the NCAA, which has uncapped rosters (only scholarship limits).

by jtr :: Sun, 04/15/2018 - 4:33pm

Hadn't really considered that. I can't imagine it would be a huge change in how teams build rosters, though, because punt plays aren't changing and, and generally the kickoff and punt units are mostly the same guys.

I don't know if I would really consider it that much of a bad thing if teams didn't have to consider special teams as heavily in filling out the bottom of the roster. Might mean more variety in offensive and defensive personnel packages since teams would have more roster spots available for specialists.

by Will Allen :: Sat, 04/14/2018 - 11:44am

If you use the PAT to determine field position and possession, and encourage 4 down offense by giving generous field position after a made field goal, the game would be substantially improved, and we would not miss kickoffs at all.

by justanothersteve :: Sat, 04/14/2018 - 4:07pm

I am not keen on the "10-second runoff when instant replay overturns an on-field ruling when there is less than one minute remaining in each half" change. I hope there is at least an option for teams to call time out to save clock time.

by andrew :: Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:05pm

What happens when there is a penalty on a fair catch inside the 25? march off from 25 of spot of foul?

My prediction is teams will try a kind of long squib kick where the ball skids inside the 25 somewhere, harder to catch but because it bounced you can't fair catch it. Right now its not worth it but it might be with this change.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 04/17/2018 - 1:26pm

Well, at first glance this proposal would reduce the number of kickoff returns but preserve two things that I think are worth keeping: the ability to perform a surprise onside kick, and the ability to return a kick for a touchdown or to flip field position.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 04/17/2018 - 2:09pm

Yes, in a world without injury concerns for football players one would rather maintain the surprise onside kick, and the value of a great return. The reality is that kickoffs really do produce a disproportionate number of injuries, however, so it makes sense to get rid of it.

The good news is if you do it right, some attractive features can be added. Imagine an NFL where the standard PAT kick from the 10 results in the opponent getting the ball at the 35, but a successful two point conversion from the current spot results in the opponent getting the ball at the 20, unsuccessful at 25. I bet we'd see a significant decline in the most boring play in the game; the standard PAT kick. Want to keep possession after PAT? Convert a two pointer from, I dunno,the 15 or 20 yard line, and if you fail the opponent gets the ball on your 45.

What about after a made field goal? Give possession to the opponent on their 40. This increases the value of 4 down offense, which is more entertaining than watching field goal attempts. The one part which is a little clunky is those occasions when a team wants to retain possession after a made field goal. I'd require a conversion from the 15 or 20 again.

by Dan :: Sat, 04/21/2018 - 2:52pm

Surprise onside kicks will probably become less effective. If the return team is mostly playing for a touchback, then they can put less effort into preparing for the return and more effort into guarding against trick plays.

by zenbitz :: Tue, 04/17/2018 - 5:35pm

They could replace the onside kick with "roll 11 or 12" on 2d6.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 04/20/2018 - 3:22pm

I choose to attack the gazebo.