NCAA Approves 2018 Kickoff Rule Change; Impacts Fair Catches Within 25-Yard Line

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2018

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Kicker Greg Huegel #92 of the Clemson Tigers kicks the ball off to start the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A drastic change is coming to college football in 2018 as player safety continues to be a top priority.

According to Greg Johnson of NCAA.com, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new rule for kickoffs, with fair catches anywhere inside the 25-yard line resulting in touchbacks and the football being placed at the 25-yard line.

Previously, touchbacks only occurred when the kickoff was fielded in the end zone.

The new rule could help prevent teams from trying to pin opponents deep in their own territory by skying the kickoff and not giving them much of a chance at a return. In the past, any fair catch in the field of play resulted in the ball being placed at the spot where it was fielded.

It is the latest of several rules changes in recent years. Back in 2012, the NCAA moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 and made it so the football would be placed at the 25-yard line, rather than at the 20, on touchbacks.

As much as a game can change on special teams, kickoffs are viewed as the most violent play in football. Eleven players from each team start from opposite sides of the field and go head-to-head, frequently resulting in collisions.

The most notable injury on a kickoff happened to former Rutgers Scarlet Knight Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in 2010.

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Rules have been tweaked in recent years to try to encourage touchbacks. And it's not just college football that's been affected—the NFL eliminated kickoffs from the Pro Bowl.

The new fair catch rule is the most drastic change that will go into effect next season, but it's not the only one. Offensive players will not be allowed to block below the waist more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, all blocks below the waist except by interior linemen must be head-on, and a 10-second runoff will occur when instant replay overturns a call inside the final minute of a half on a play in which the clock would not have been stopped.

The full list of rule changes can be viewed on the NCAA's official website.

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