College Football Predictions: Justin Gilbert and 15 Dangerous Kick Returners

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College Football Predictions: Justin Gilbert and 15 Dangerous Kick Returners
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For 2012, college football has followed the NFL and made kickoff returns safer for players. According to Iliana Limon Romero of SunSentinel:

“Teams will be kicking off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30-yard line. Players on the kickoff team will not be allowed to line up more than five yards behind the ball in an effort to avoid high speed collisions. If the ball is kicked out of the end zone, it will be placed on the return team’s 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line.”

In regards to players possibly losing helmets after collisions, Romero said:

“If a player loses his helmet and it not caused by a penalty, it will be treated like an injury. The player must leave the game for at least one play. If the helmet comes off a player’s head during the final two minutes of the second or fourth quarters, the player must leave the game for one play and 10 seconds will run off the clock to discourage teams from using the helmet rule as a mechanism to stop the clock.”

The NFL rule changes have worked. According to Gary Mihoces of USA Today:

“Totals kickoff returns fell by about 32% in the 2011 NFL regular season under a rule change that pushed kickoffs up from the 30-yard line to the 35. Concussions on all plays dropped 12.5%, according to NFL data…both numbers fall in line with the NFL’s strengthened safety agenda.”

Since college football has moved the kickoff location five yards closer to midfield, I expect kickoff return numbers to decrease. However, there are many kick returners who can still break off kick return touchdowns at any moment.

Let’s take a look at 15 of these guys. All of them have at least two career kickoff return touchdowns, and all but one have solidified themselves as their school’s No. 1 kick returner heading into 2012.

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