UT football player Brad Dunavant kicks the ball during practice in the Glass Bowl on Saturday.
Additional planning has been needed in special teams meetings this preseason, this after the NCAA reworked the rules on several areas of kickoffs to better insure player safety.
No longer will kickers tee up the ball at the 30-yard line. It's now the 35, designed to promote more touchbacks and decrease the number of bone-crushing collisions. Additionally, kickoff coverage units cannot start behind the 30, this decreasing their space to get a running head start by five yards.
Offenses will begin drives after a touchback on kickoffs at the 25, this as another way to promote touchbacks. Unchanged are drives that begin after touchbacks on punts. They will still start at the 20.
These changes were set in motion because of data showing the prevalence of injuries on kickoffs.
"We're ready for any of the situations that come this year," University of Toledo kicker Jeremiah Detmer said.
Detmer recorded six touchbacks last year.
Fans will see other rule tweaks when the season begins in two weeks. Blocked punts will be less common as defenders are no longer able to jump over offensive players lined up in a shield-blocking scheme.
"I think it will make a big difference in how teams punt the football," UT coach Matt Campbell said.
Rules on onside kicks have changed to benefit the receiving team. A player can now call fair catch on a ball that has bounced once. This diminishes the effectiveness of kickers driving the ball into the ground to produce a high-bouncing kick — a trend seen in recent years that rendered players fielding the ball a sitting duck. To beat the system kickers might now try to make the ball bounce twice, with the second bounce traveling higher than the first.
"I think because of that people will try different kicks and maybe line up differently than before," UT special teams coach Stan Watson said.
UT attempted two onside kicks in 2011, recovering neither one.
OPEN PRACTICE: Nothing of substance came from the period of Saturday's practice viewed by the public. With starters and most primary backups watching from the sidelines, a collection of freshmen and walk-ons scrimmaged for about 30 minutes before a couple hundred fans. Freshman Cole French, a non-scholarship player, displayed decent arm strength in hooking up for scores with Zac Rosenbauer and Danny Larkins.
Freshman Alonzo Russell, who is in the mix to start at one of the receiver spots, couldn't come down with a leaping sideline catch over freshman cornerback Juwan Haynes.
INJURIES: James Green, who is listed atop the preseason depth chart at wide receiver tore a ligament in his knee in practice last week and is expected to miss the season opener. Green caught nine passes in each of the past two seasons. ... Starting left guard Jeff Myers is day-to-day with a sprained foot. ... Running back David Fluellen (foot) and Dwight Macon (ankle) participated in the portion of the practice not seen by the public, Campbell said.
DAY OFF: After practicing Sunday night, the Rockets will take off Monday for the first day of classes.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.
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