Kickoff changes have coaches looking for ways to use the new rules to their advantage

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

The SEC was the first league to have its annual Media Day event, and Steve Shaw, the league's coordinator of officials, spoke to the assembled reporters Wednesday about new rules in college football this season.

Everyone who follows the sport knows the biggest change is that kickoffs now will come from the 35 rather than the 30 yard line and that touchbacks will be brought out to the 25 rather than the 20.

Shaw said research used by the rules committee showed that kickoffs have "a higher level of potential injury in it than a regular scrimmage down. … More touchbacks, less collisions, less injuries. Kind of an added incentive in there for you to take a touchback."

Shaw also said, "The flipside of that is some special teams coaches with good kickers may try to sky kick, pin 'em back deep. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out."

Florida coach Will Muschamp said the sky kick definitely is something his team could use.

"We have a guy [Caleb Sturgis] that can kick it out of the end zone, but you're going to get the ball at the 25-yard line now," Muschamp said. "We have talked about some sky-kick situations as far as trying to pin them down. … We talked about trying directional kicks … and see if we can't pin 'em back in even further.

"That's something we worked through in spring, we talked about a lot, repped a little bit. We've had our kickers working on that. We will do that again in fall camp."

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin seemed to agree with Muschamp.

"Coaches know how valuable every inch is, how valuable that real estate is," Franklin said. "If you can pin them inside the 10 or 15 with some kind of kick or coverage, you want to do that, no doubt about it."

Shaw also pointed out that the rules surrounding an onside kick have changed. In the past, fair catches were not allowed on balls that popped up in the air. That has changed. "Now if a kicker drives the ball straight into the ground, the receiving team is afforded protection to catch that hop just like it was an airborne kick," Shaw said.

In a way, Franklin issued a challenge to coaches everywhere.

"It's going to be interesting to see how each coach uses these rule changes to their advantage, what coaches maybe aren't prepared for the significance of some of these rule changes," he said.

[Related: Underachiever Texas A&M has to prove it belongs in the SEC]

King Jim

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported Thursday on a proposal that would give power to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to fire coaches that, basically, brought disrepute to the league. (The proposal was defeated.)

Well, The Chronicle reported Friday that there was another part of the proposal that was tabled early: Delany would have had the authority to help institutions make coaching decisions.

"He wanted to offer that he would play a very central role in hiring and managing the power coaches in the conference – that the commissioner would be insulated from boosters and campus politics," The Chronicle quoted a person who knew about the idea as saying.

It has been obvious for the better part of a decade that Delany is convinced he is the smartest person in any room. But any AD or school president who would turn over part of the hiring and firing process to someone not associated with the school doesn't deserve to be an AD or school president.

Grid bits

• LSU's Tiger Stadium will be getting bigger. A state bond commission approved $75 million in renovations Thursday, and the stadium's capacity will increase to almost 100,000. That would put Tiger Stadium No. 3 in the SEC in capacity, behind Tennessee and Alabama. The renovations will begin sometime this fall and be done by the start of the 2014 season.

• The general consensus was North Carolina LB Darius Lipford, who was a part-time starter last season, would miss this season because of a torn ACL suffered in the Independence Bowl loss to Missouri. Well, there is no question now: Lipford reinjured the knee while rehabbing and definitely is out for the season. UNC's depth-shy linebacker corps remains a big concern for the Heels' new coaching staff.

• Credit Missouri WR T.J. Moe for the best line of the SEC Media Days extravaganza; indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone at any league event will produce a better quote this year. Moe on the SEC's image: "They say girls are prettier here, air's fresher and toilet paper is thicker."

[Related: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel defends Joe Paterno as 'a good man']

• Kentucky coach Joker Phillips also got off a nice line. Asked about whether he thought he was on the hot seat, he replied, "I'm not sitting down right now, so nothing's hot."

• S Ray Ray Armstrong was a five-star recruit who was the No. 13 player nationally in the 2009 signing class. He signed with Miami, but never did all that much and his Hurricanes career officially is over after he was kicked off the team for repeated violations earlier this week. Armstrong, from Sanford (Fla.) Seminole, was one of a handful of star-crossed five-star recruits in that class, joining the likes of Tennessee TB Bryce Brown, Florida DT Gary Brown, USC S Patrick Hall, LSU DT Chris Davenport, Ohio State LB Dorian Bell and Texas QB Garrett Gilbert.

• CB T.J. Bryant, a former four-star recruit who was the No. 82 player nationally in the 2008 signing class, will finish up his career at Troy after transferring from USC. He graduated from USC this spring and will be eligible this fall for Troy. Bryant, from Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln, had 32 tackles and one pick in his USC career.

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