As Eric LeGrand continues to make his miraculous recovery from the hit that paralyzed him against Army in October, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano has been inspired to try and limit the possibilities of this happening to any player ever again. Steve Politi, of the Star-Ledger, profiled some of the rule changes that Schiano has been suggesting this offseason regarding kickoffs.
This is Schiano’s plan: Replace all kickoffs with a punting situation, including after the opening coin toss and to start the second half. So, as an example, when Team A scores a touchdown, it immediately gets the ball back on a fourth and 15 from its own 30-yard line.
It can punt it back to Team B — the most likely outcome and a safer play since the bigger collisions usually happen on kickoffs. Or it can line up and go for the first down, essentially replacing an onside kick with an offensive play that would require more skill than luck.
Onside kicks work about a quarter of the time in the NFL, according to the website advancednflstats.com, a deceptive figure because the play is far more successful when the other team isn’t expecting it. Schiano isn’t sure if going for it on fourth and 15 is a higher percentage play — according to the same website, it’s about 18 percent or 19 percent — but success would be less dependent on a favorable bounce.
Any coach will agree that kickoffs are the most dangerous play in football, but getting a drastic change like this put in place will not happen overnight. One "first step" that college football could take would be to move kickoffs to the 35, something the NFL did to increase touchbacks and thus limit the injuries.
“I think we’re wrong in college football,” Schiano said. “We should at the least do what the NFL is doing — at the least. For us not to follow the league with the most research on anything? I don’t think we’re being as responsible as we should be."
Personally, I'd welcome the change. While big hits can fire up a stadium and a sideline, good defense can provide enough of those without the danger of full speed collisions following a 70-yard dash. Plus as an avid NCAA College Football video gamer who never (ever) punts, I will get to attempt 4th and 15 instead of kicking off to my opponent. Which I would plan on doing every. single. time.