College football will be watching NFL's new kickoff rule closely

The NFL approved a new kickoff rule Tuesday, one of the most significant changes to the rulebook ever. The NFL is hoping this is only the start.

"All eyes are going to be on this hybrid kickoff, every league — college leagues, spring leagues, high school, down to youth football," Saints special teams coach Darren Rizzi said. "If we can find success with this model, and indeed it is a safer model, I think other leagues will look to adopt it. So, that's now the challenge for the 32 special coordinators is to make that part work."

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, a member of the college football rules committee, agrees that college football will be watching the hybrid kickoff closely.

“I think the NFL is the model. They know what they want. They know what they’re trying to do,” Smart said Tuesday, via Seth Emerson of “And they’re going to get it right, and then hopefully we can look into it ourselves, if the kickoff is not part of our game.”

In 2023, 49.6 percent of kickoffs at the FBS level were returned, according to TruMedia. Yet, like the NFL, there are safety concerns with the traditional kickoff.

The NFL's new kickoff is a tweaked version of the XFL's kickoff. The kicker will kick the ball from his own 35-yard line, with 10 of his teammates lined up on the other team’s 40-yard line. The receiving team’s nine or 10 blockers will line up on their own 35-yard line. The kick must land between the 20-yard line and the goal line. A kick that either goes out of bounds or lands short of the 20 will be awarded to the receiving team at the 40-yard line. A kick that goes into the end zone for a touchback will go out to the receiving team’s 30-yard line.

It negates the high-speed collisions that happen with the traditional kickoff as players are stationary until the ball is touched by a returner or hits the ground.

"This is hopefully the norm for a long time," Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel said. "The colleges potentially adopting it. High school adopting it. Flag football adopting it. I think probably that would make us the most proud, seeing this go to other parts of football. Today, I feel like we made football better and we made football, and that's going to trickle down."