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Can't Wait For Saturday | Plenty to like about ideas to make the kickoff return a big deal in college game

Apr. 2—***

Some might compare the relegation of the kickoff in football to the change in he jump ball in basketball. I am not in the "some" category.

The jump ball in its heyday belonged to one type of person, the one who could jump the highest. Oh sure, there was timing involved and it was kind of cool to se the little guy beat the big guy, but it was not close to the essence of the game.

In football, the kickoff is in large part the essence of the sport. Speed helps. But so does agility. And power. And physicality.

Do you know who leads Illinois in career kickoff average? Well, of course, it is one of the greatest to ever play any position, Red Grange. Company you want to keep. No. 2 on the list is Mike Bellamy. No. 3 is Pierre Thomas, who later won a Super Bowl ring.

My point here is that the kickoff return is special. And it is important to preserve it if possible.

The downside is the play isit results in violent hits. Run a long way and plow into a returner or blocker and you are going to inflict some damage.

But pro football has come up with a fix that seems to make sense. And it looks like college football is going to follow along. The kickoff return will be preserved by limiting the long sprints of the coverage teams. By putting everyone closer at the start, it should be safer. And we will have those beautiful runs made famous by Grange.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart seems to support the idea. He's won two national titles and clearly knows what he's doing.

Let's give it a go. If it doesn't work, there can be a change later. But we want to see long returns again.