Officials highlight rule changes for upcoming B1G football season

BY BEN ROSS | JULY 27, 2012 6:30 AM

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CHICAGO — The upcoming football season will see a couple of rule changes in the scheme of college football, with an emphasis on player safety being the driving force behind each new adjustment to the football laws.

“We’re trying to improve, but we’re not going to be perfect,” Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo said on Thursday at a Big Ten press conference. “But I think we’re in pretty good shape. The points of emphasis that we have this year have to do with player safety. That has not changed. That’s been our mantra for the last several years, and we’ll continue to work on the health and safety of the players.”

One of the most noticeable rule changes will be how kickoffs are conducted. The ball will now be kicked from the 35-yard line, up from the original 30. This is to reduce running starts that the kickoff team has on the kick.

Also, when a touchback occurs on a kick, the ball will be placed at the 25 instead of the 20, as a measure to encourage teams to use touchbacks and to limit player contact.

On punts, a few players on the punting side often use a type of “shield blocking” in order to better protect their punter. The NCAA Football Rules Committee decided that players defending a punt are no longer allowed to jump over this shield. The idea is to reduce head injuries that can be sustained when players hurdle over others and often land on their heads.

Another new rule states that when a player loses his helmet on a play, he must be forced to sit out the following play — unless his helmet was dislodged by way of a penalty from an opposing player. This is to quell any advantage that could be gained from a clock stoppage that happens when a player has lost a helmet.

The last rule change pertains to blocking below the waist. Offensive players who are between the tackle boxes at the start of a play are permitted to block below the waist, while all other players are not allowed to do so, except in a few special circumstances such as straight-ahead blocks.

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