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College Football Playing it Safe Stuck
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 10:43 AM.

College football has always been the backup vocals to the rock star status of the NFL. Americans love their professional football, but the NFL has been in the spotlight as much for negative off-field issues as for the games themselves.

The personal lives and questionable ethics of many coaches have riddled both the collegiate and pro games with negative press, but the NFL has been hit from both sides with potential litigation brought by former players claiming the league neglected to protect them from the long-term effects of brain injuries.

Recently the NFL took more steps to address safety concerns with rule changes for the 2012 season. The NCAA has taken note -- and as much as they would love for potential changes that could help their popularity grow -- college football must focus on the vulnerability of the amateurs who play the game by proactively adjusting rules for safety.

Here is a quick look at the key rule changes for the 2012 NCAA football season.

Kick Offs and Touchbacks

Extensive research has led the NCAA to conclude that the ratio of special teams plays to injuries is quite alarming. In an effort to cut down on the issue, teams will now kick off from the thirty-five yard line instead of the thirty. The kick off team is also prohibited from lining anyone up behind the 30-yard line. Combine that with touchbacks earning the receiving team a start at the twenty-five yard mark (punts and fumbles through the endzone, for example, will still result in the ball being placed at the twenty-yard line), and it's clear to see the NCAA is serious about cutting back on the perceived special teams injury problem.

The kicking team will have to decide if giving up the extra five yards is worth the easy touchback, or if they want to try and drop the kick at the goal-line to force a return and potentially stop the return team deep in their own territory. The disparity between talented return specialists is more prominent in the college game, and I expect this change to favor the kicking team in the long-run.

Heads Are Gonna Roll

The NCAA has grown extremely concerned with players who lose their helmets mid-play -- and in some cases, players who continue to finish the play. In their research from last year, the average college football game had just over two instances where players' helmets came off. This year if the lid comes off, so does the player for at least one play. In other words, players who lose their helmet will be treated like they were taken off for injury. The rule, however, does not apply if the helmet comes off as a result of a penalty like face-masking.

In thinking ahead, the NCAA also set up blocks to prevent teams that might try to manipulate the rule to stop the clock in critical junctures of the game. Just as a lost lid means a play off as if the player was injured, the same is true for clock rules. If you go down with an injury or lose your helmet, you're subjecting your team to a lost timeout or a clock run-off late in the half. Finally, and perhaps most necessary of all, the player losing his helmet must stop immediately. It's yet to be seen what type of punishment may be dished out by officials should someone play on in that instance.

Start a Knee-Cap Collection

Tired of offensive linemen never getting any breaks? There's a new rule for that. If you're a fan of blocks below the waist -- one thing I wish was gone from football -- the NCAA has just the cure for your troubles. Georgia Tech fans should enjoy this one; as well as reconstructive knee surgeons. Offensive players in the tackle box are now allowed to block below the waist of a defender "without restriction" as long as they were not in motion at the time of the snap. But don't worry, everyone else can still snap your tibia and fibula with a cut block as long as they're coming straight at you.
Red Rover, Red Rover...

The final rule change of note -- and one giving a huge advantage to one side of the ball -- is a ban on leaping over blockers on punts. The concern is that the receiving team players who dive in to block the kick are being flipped into the air and could potentially land on their head. The issue revolves around teams who use a punt protection shield scheme with several up-backs, or personal protectors, standing a few yards in the front of the punter. In an attempt to block the punt, the rushing defenders had the option to either crash through, run around, or jump over the blockers. Now the only options are to run straight through or around, something nearly impossible to do in time for a blocked punt against such a scheme.

Instead of the NCAA banning the shield scheme of protection on punts they have essentially invited everyone in the nation to start using it. By forming a pocket in front of the punter, the rushing defenders must try to go through the wall of blockers (highly unlikely), while punters can step directly into the pocket of protection negating any outside rush. Don't be surprised if blocked punts become a thing of the past in the college game.

How do you feel about the NCAA's rule changes for the 2012 football season?

Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @long_snapper.
# 1 chi_hawks @ Jun 21
ACL and MCL specialists had to have hired some lobbyists to get the blocking rule changed. They are going to cash in big time.
# 2 JBkiLLa25 @ Jun 21
I actually like how a touchback will be at the 25 instead of the 20. Smart play on their part. As for the losing helmet in final minutes of a game resulting in a loss of timeout is a bunch of crap. It's not like u can control if your helmet comes off or not. And not banning sheiks blocking really hurt punt blocks.
# 3 scottyo60 @ Jun 21
Seems to me like a lot of rules are about to be broken. If I lost my helmet I surely wasn't stopping.
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