Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
There's an interesting column on espn.com today that details the new rules that have been proposed for next season, all of them dealing with safety. (The NCAA is currently receiving feedback from member schools about the rules, and will be voted upon next Tuesday.)
The rule sure to be most controversial is one that matches last year's NFL rule change -- moving kickoffs forward by five years, to the 35-yard line. But the colleges are adding a twist that the NFL doesn't have, one that it hopes will cut down on the number of kickoff returns even more. Under the new rule, touchbacks would be placed at the 25, rather than the 20.
The impetus of this, of course, is to reduce the number of kickoff returns, which produce more violent, high-speed collisions -- and thus more injuries -- than any other play. It seemed to work in the NFL, so colleges are quick to move in that direction, too. Minnesota's opponents downed only eight of the 58 Gopher kickoffs they received, one of the lowest rates in the Big Ten. By contrast, Purdue's senior kicker Carson Wiggs produced 23 touchbacks in 89 kickoffs.
Other changes include protecting punt returners from devastating hits as they catch the ball, and requiring any player whose helmet comes off during a play to sit out a play, just as if he had been injured.
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