State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penn State Football: Galiano Chimes In On New Kickoff Rules

by on April 22, 2018 10:00 AM

You didn't see a single kickoff return during this year's Blue White game. In fact you probably have never seen a kickoff return during any Blue White game.

The reason: if there's one play in football that can lead to all sorts of unpleasant injuries, it's the kickoff. Two groups of players running head first into each other trying to make a tackle or prevent one. Nothing in the game has quite the collective speed and collective physicality of a kickoff.

So teams avoid going full contact as much as they can, hoping that low contact practice will be enough to get the job done when it happens for real.

The injury rate, and injury potential during a kickoff hasn't gone unnoticed by the NCAA, and just this month a rule change continued to give teams incentive not to return the ball at all.

The new rule: any kick that is fair caught inside the 25 will result in a touchback.

It's a change that's just the latest in a series of modifications to the kickoff. Before the 2012 season, kickoffs were moved from the 30-yard line to the 35. The NCAA rules committee also changed the starting position on touchbacks that year so that the receiving team started its drive on the 25-yard line instead of the 20. Better field position, better reason not to return it at all.

So has it worked?

Under former Penn State special team's coach Charles Huff, the Nittany Lions were collectively of the opinion that any good return unit could get the ball to at least the 25. So the incentive to just take the 25 yards, aside from kicks landing deep in the end zone, wasn't really there. Enter Saquon Barkley and his ability to return any kick, and the Nittany Lions didn't opt for the easy way out all that often. And Barkley made the most of it.

Even so Penn State ranked 49th in return average in 2017-18 at a 21.65 yards per return clip, just about seven yards short of the nation's best. Almost two yards better than the year prior.

With Huff out of the picture at Mississippi State, Penn State now turns to Phil Galiano, a behind-the-scenes hand in the Nittany Lions' success on special teams last year, now officially in his new capacity as special teams coach. 

So what does he think of the newest change?

"That's interesting," Galiano said of the change. "I'll be honest with you, with it just happening in the past week or two I haven't sat down and really given it a ton of thought. My first initial instinct is it's all going to depend on who you have there as your kick returner."

"If you don't feel great about who's your kick returner then it's an easy out for other guys to say 'okay we're going to fair catch this and take the ball at the 25.' If you have a guy you feel really good about, Saquon last year and some of the returners we have coming back this year, then I'm not so sure you want to take that."

"But that's going to be something that we're going to sit down and talk about as a staff."

An early guess, Penn State and most schools will take their chances in the early going. But if the numbers don't back up the decision, be prepared for far fewer big returns and far fewer highlights during the most dangerous play in the game.

In the end, that was the NCAA's plan all along.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
Next Article
Penn State Football: Three Good, Three Bad From The Blue White Game
April 22, 2018 8:45 AM
by Ben Jones
Penn State Football: Three Good, Three Bad From The Blue White Game
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

order food online