The kickoff return is about to make a comeback in college football.
With the NCAA moving the kickoff spot back from the 35 to the 30-yard line this season, expect fewer touchbacks, more swings in field position, possibly more points and maybe even more injuries.
``I think it's going to really affect the game,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said recently. ``Obviously, field position is going to be different, a lot more exciting plays on the kickoff with more returns. Depending on wind conditions, depending on the strength of the kicker, it may change some minds on whether you kickoff or defer.''
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said he had his staff go back and study kickoffs from the Badgers' games last year.
``Basically, we found that almost 67 percent of the touchbacks that we had a year ago would have been returns, based on where the ball landed,'' he said.
The rule change was made as part of the NCAA's attempt to accelerate the pace of games, something it tried last season but failed to get right.
Last season's changes - the most criticized of which was the rule that kept the clock moving on a change of possession - knocked about 14 minutes off the actual time it took to play a game, from 3:21 to 3:07, according to NCAA stats. But those changes also trimmed the number of plays, yards and points per game and were met with almost unanimous disapproval from coaches.
Although coaches have been more positive about this year's big change, it has not been universally embraced.
The biggest concern is the possibility that more high-speed collisions will produce more injuries. Purdue coach Joe Tiller has been one of the more outspoken critics.
``The most violent play in all of football is the kickoff,'' Tiller said. ``So I'm not in favor of moving it back 5 yards. Not because I'm opposed to excitement in the game. But I think about the health and safety of the players, first and foremost.''
Ron Courson, head trainer at Georgia and a member of the National Athletic Trainers association, has said the NCAA will keep track of injuries, and changes will be made if necessary.
Texas kick returner Quan Cosby said he's not worried about getting hurt.
``It can be pretty rough out there,'' he said. ``I'll take a hit a million times as long as we're in good position to score.''
First-year Iowa State coach Gene Chizik, the former defensive coordinator at Texas, said offenses should greatly benefit.
``There's a premium on kickoff coverage, there's a premium on kickoff returns like there hasn't been before,'' Chizik said. ``With any kind of kickoff return at all, you can make two first downs and be on the other side of the 50. And if you've ever seen or heard the percentage chance of scoring on the opponents side of the 50, it goes up greatly.
USC coach Pete Carroll said he likes the change because his kicker, David Buehler, has a strong leg and should still be able to reach the end zone consistently.
``And it gives us a chance for more kickoff returns,'' said Carroll, who's got plenty of talented runners at his disposal.
California coach Jeff Tedford said the change makes penalties on kickoffs and personal fouls for excessive celebrating after touchdowns even more costly.
``I think the biggest impact is you really have to be disciplined on the kickoff team and after you score a touchdown,'' he said. ``If you were to get a personal foul penalty or something, a celebration penalty or something after a kickoff, a 15-yard penalty and you're kicking off on the 15 and you're lining up from the 5 to cover a kick - that doesn't look too good, there's a lot of field there.''

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