Dr. Saturday

San Diego State coach Rocky Long doesn’t want to punt in 2012

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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San Diego State coach Rocky Long has always been about doing things differently.

At New Mexico, he developed the innovative 3-3-5 defensive scheme and now he's debating on whether to do away with punting on fourth down — if the Aztecs are beyond the 50-yard line — for the 2012 season.

"It makes sense," Long told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points," he said. "It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense."

Of course, Long isn't the innovator of this particular idea. That distinction belongs to Kevin Kelley, the head football coach of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark., who, after months of statistical analysis, determined his team would have a higher chance of success if it always kicked the ball onside and never punted. In nine years, Pulaski Academy is 104-19 with three state titles.

And now Long wants to see if that statistical analysis will hold true in the college game.

"It's a day-to-day theory," Long told the paper. "I haven't decided because we're getting a feel for it out here. I just read about this guy, and I don't know if I can do that because everybody in the world is going to say this is not Football 101, right?

[Also: Could Tyrann Mathieu play college football at LSU in 2013?]

Kelley has long said that punting is a voluntary turnover, so by that logic, why would you want to give the ball away? While the idea might be unconventional, it might just be crazy enough to work.

"There's a reason why he's winning those games," Long said of Kelley. "Maybe he just has better players than everybody else; or maybe it's their team gets used to playing like that and the other teams don't get used to playing like that. It's fourth-and-7 — most defenses run off the field. And now they're going to stay out there. 'What? How come the punt team isn't coming out?'"

If San Diego State does decide to go with this plan, it might be the next big thing in college football. Long's 3-3-5 defense is used by multiple teams and the spread offense was an anomaly until everyone realized that speeding up the game led to more points. If not punting can give a team even the slightest bit of an advantage, punting might become the leather helmet by 2016.

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