By Chadd Cripe
© 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.