The NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight panel on Friday announced a significant change to how kickoffs are treated. Moving forward, kickoffs that land inside the field of play between the goal line and the 25-yard line can now be fair caught and taken to the 25 as touchbacks. The move essentially extends the end zone out 25 yards on kickoffs, a significant and obvious attempt to limit the number of runbacks.
Plenty of coaches have attempted to steal precious field position yardage by instructing their kickers to land their kickoffs just shy of the goal line and then covering said kick. This rule change now gives receiving teams the option to take that strategy off the table. Whereas previously a kickoff fair caught at the 5-yard line became dead at the 5, now that ball would move to the 25.
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) April 13, 2018
Elsewhere, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel made all blocks below the waist illegal if thrown more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage and stated that all players, other than interior linemen, must throw below-the-waist blocks from the front.
Other rules changes:
- The 40-second play clock will now start before PAT or 2-point conversion attempts, and the 40-second clock will start more quickly after kickoffs.
- Collaborative replay reviews (such as in-stadium officials communicating with the conference office) may continue on an experimental basis.
- Leaping rules on field goals and extra points were adjusted to mirror those on punting plays, where leaping over the frame of the body of an opponent is illegal.
- Penalty enforcement on field goals will now be treated the same as extra points, where unsportsmanlike calls on the defensive team can now be accepted on the ensuing kickoff.