New kickoff rules bring uncertainty to college football; Boise State walk-on Beau Martin competes for starting job

By Chadd Cripe
ccripe@idahostatesman.com
© 2012 Idaho Statesman

There is a lot of uncertainty about how the new kickoff rules in college football will affect games.

The rules makers are hoping for more touchbacks and fewer concussions, which is exactly what happened with a similar change last year in the NFL.

Coaches anticipate some added intrigue, too, as teams weigh the risks and benefits of kicking the ball high and short of the goal line to force the opponent to earn its field position.

The changes: the ball will be kicked off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30, defenders will get only a 5-yard running start and touchbacks (on kickoffs only) will result in the ball being placed at the 25-yard line instead of the 20. It’s the last part of the rule that raises questions — that’s 5 yards of field position that coaches aren’t sure they want to surrender.

“If you knew you could consistently tackle them inside the 25, I’d take 3 or 4 more yards of field position,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “You never know, that may be an extra field goal as you play.”

Last year, Boise State led the Mountain West with a net average of 46.4 yards per kickoff. Under the new rules, that would result in opponents starting at their own 19-yard line. Kickoff specialist Trevor Harman, who recorded 17 touchbacks last season, returns and figures he could regularly force touchbacks with low, driving kicks if that’s what coaches want.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen says he’ll do what’s best for field position — sometimes that might mean forcing a touchback, and sometimes it might mean forcing a return.

“If we had our druthers, if we could predict it, we’d want to mix it up,” he said.

A study released this month indicated that concussions sustained on NFL kickoffs dropped from 35 in 2010 to 20 in 2011 with the new kickoff rule. Touchbacks spiked considerably, to nearly half of all kickoffs.

Here is the more in-depth story I wrote about the new rule in March.

•••

Boise State sophomore Beau Martin, who transferred last year from Colorado State Pueblo, is competing with redshirt freshman Sam Ukwuachu and junior Kharyee Marshall for playing time at the stud defensive end position, the spot played by Shea McClellin in recent years.

Martin, a walk-on, has a strong chance to win the job.

“The thing I’m most excited about is I learn so much each day,” he said. “We get so much done in our meetings that I walk away at night really feeling like I’m getting a little better. And if I can do that every day, then I think I’m getting closer to where I need to be.”

Martin (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) is part of a raw collection of ends on the Broncos’ roster. Six of them haven’t played major college football and neither of the other two have played extensively.

Martin came to Boise State because he didn’t want to settle for playing at a lower level. Now he’s a couple weeks from his debut.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “I love this game so much. It is a great opportunity. It’s just an opportunity that I’m glad that I have. Of course, you’re nervous, but that’s a good thing. That means that you really care about this game, and I do.”

•••

The offense bounced back with a better practice Wednesday morning. The team will be back on the field Wednesday afternoon. Senior wide receiver Mitch Burroughs, who has looked good throughout camp, made several plays. Tailback D.J. Harper made a ridiculous one-handed catch, reaching behind his body with his right arm as he ran a crossing route. On defense, lanky end Sam Ukwuachu picked off a screen pass — something he did a couple times in spring ball, too. Cornerback Jamar Taylor also recorded an interception — winning a fight for the ball with Burroughs.

In the afternoon, the first-, second- and third-team offenses failed to get within field-goal range in game-like drives. Defensive end Tyler Horn foiled the first-teamers with a sack and safety Darian Thompson stopped the second-teamers with an interception.

•••

Camper of the day update (chosen by coach Chris Petersen for Broncosports.com):

Day 1: N Corey Bell. “Corey had a great summer and came into camp in good shape,” Petersen said. “Mentally, he is really on top of things right now.”

Day 2: TE Holden Huff. “Holden is making plays for us out there, and we like playmakers,” Petersen said.

Day 3: DL Darren Koontz. “Darren had a really nice day,” Petersen said. “He was playing physical and much faster, and he was nice and disruptive today.”

Day 4: LT Faraji Wright. “Faraji showed up to this camp ready to compete,” Petersen said. “He has been playing at a high level from day one, and he has been extremely focused.”

Day 5: LB Tommy Smith. “Tommy has been extremely focused thus far in camp,” Petersen said. “He has been working extremely hard and is playing very physical football right now.”

Day 6: RB D.J. Harper. “D.J. is running hard and making sharp cuts,” Petersen said. “He has been extremely precise in what he’s doing out here.”

Day 7: No practice.

Day 8: CB Deon’tae Florence. “Deon’tae had a really good practice,” Petersen said. “He made some big plays, and hauled in a couple of interceptions.”

Day 9: No practice.

Day 10: LB J.C. Percy. “J.C. is doing a great job inside,” Petersen said. “He knows this defense inside and out, and he plays as hard as anyone we have on the roster.”

Day 11: WR Chris Potter. “Chris is working real hard out here,” Petersen said. “He is precise in his routes and extremely tough to cover, and he is doing a great job in our return game.”

Day 12: WR Kirby Moore. “Kirby has done a nice job out here,” Petersen said. “He is faster and more precise, and is an extremely sharp player. He is having a great camp.”

•••

Boise State is No. 23 in the Sports Illustrated preseason poll.

•••

If you haven’t seen it yet, Brian Murphy has a story on Boise State’s pending admittance to the Big West for sports other than football.

Read our coverage on your iPhone or Android phone.

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"ridiculous one-handed catch"

You are killing me smalls.......

16 days

It appears that spartan

is derived from sparce.

The Michigan State Defense

is a lot like Boise State's offense. They use a bunch of formations and they do a lot of moving around and shifting prior to the snap. It will be fun to see it play out.

Big year for D.J.

I believe he is going to put up some ridiculous numbers to go along with his "ridiculous one handed catch". :)

I really hope he stays healthy

He's done a great job rehabbing those ACLs but every time I see him cut, I cringe. It would be more bad luck than not being physically able to perform at a high level that could cause another tear. I think he could have a 1200 yard season if all goes well.

I also cant wait to see all these young guys in a couple days. Thats the best part of Fall scrimmage.

JL

I know what you mean, I wince everytime he takes an awkward hit too. IF he stays healthy, look out.

Hoping to see some runs like the one for the TD against VT

He deserves a good year.

Touchbacks

It sounds like they are inviting special teams coaches to go for a sky kick or squib kick. Why would they place the ball at the 25yd line? If they want teams to kick touchbacks they need to place the ball on the 20 or the 15. There is no incentive for teams to kick the ball in the endzone.

Very good point

BF65..................

Re: Touchbacks

I guess the incentive would be for the receiving team...?? Not to run the ball out of the endzone.

Good point

BB

Check out Murph

it looks like the Big West is the answer

Hey Chadd...

Is Beau Martin still paying his own way or was he given a scholarship recently? I know hes a walk on but its pretty rare (if he hasnt received one already) for a starting D Line guy or a guy in the rotation not to have an earned one unless he has really come on strong just in the last few weeks. Props to Beau.

Beau

As far as I know, he's still a walk-on. Under a normal scenario I would expect him to get one this fall, but unless someone leaves or the NCAA gives back some of the three-scholarship penalty for this year I'm not sure there's a spot.

Hope Beau

has his scholarship, and it's about time the NCAA returned our three (wrongfully taken away) scholarships. They should deliver them before the end of fall camp.

If they REALLY want to eliminate kickoff returns altogether

then they would have moved the kickoff back to the 40 yard line and had ZERO running start for anyone except the kicker.

As to Beau - if he's contending for a starting spot then he should NOT be a walk-on. He should be on scholarship.

kicker

I hope Zabrowski is back. I think he deserves a second chance.

Who?

?

§ Third cousin, twice removed of

both Jared Zabransky and Kyle Brotzman. Guy can kick with either foot and even go Blanda-style.

Hes a player, no question.

borntoraisepiglets knows his "foooosball".