CHICAGO – In the quest to reduce injuries in football, kickoff rules have evolved over the years, and this year isn’t an exception in college football.
In April, the NCAA approved a rule that will allow the receiving team on kickoffs to fair catch any kick caught inside the 25-yard line with the result being a touchback to the 25. The new rule will get its first test when the season opens in August.
Bill Carollo, Big Ten coordinator of football officials, explained the reasoning for the rule during Big Ten football media days on Tuesday.
“Those pooch kicks that are in the side zones — we’re trying to eliminate in the game because it has proven out to our testing and reviewing that some major injuries have happened on kickoffs,” he said. “We’re not going to eliminate kickoffs. We’re taking a stepped approach.”
Another rule debuting this season regards low blocks. Offensive players no longer will be allowed to block an opponent below the waist when the block occurs more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Carollo also said the Big Ten made no change in its targeting rule. “We discussed it in the offseason quite a bit,” he said. “We feel that we’re comfortable where we’re at on that today. Sometimes the coaches are not as comfortable as we are. But player safety is still the number one priority for us.”
The Big Ten had 25 targeting calls last year, a significant jump from 16 in 2016.
“We’ve done a better job at recognizing targeting on the field,” Carollo said. “And I think because last year we’ve put into the rules that the replay, if we do miss it on the field, that targeting can be created in replay. And that’s why we had quite a few more reviews last year.”