There could be a noticeable spike in the number of free catches on kickoffs in college football games this fall.
That's because the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Friday approved new kickoff rules. Receiving teams will be allowed to fair catch any kick inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.
"The Football Rules Committee made the proposal to continue efforts to increase the number of touchbacks during kickoffs since fewer injuries occur during kickoffs that result in touchbacks than on kickoffs that are returned," the NCAA said in a news release. "All other aspects of the kickoff play will remain the same."
The NCAA noted that it had made changes in the past in an effort to improve player safety. That included moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 ahead of the 2012 season and pushing the starting position on touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line.
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Other changes approved by the NCAA on Friday:
- Following a touchdown and a kickoff, the play clock will start at the 40-second mark in an effort to speed up the game.
- If instant replay overturns an official's call in the final minute of either half and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, there will be a 10-second runoff.
- Offensive players will not be allowed to block below the waist when the block occurs more than 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and all blocks below the waist must be from the front (other than those made by interior linemen).
- It will be illegal to leap over the frame of the body of an opponent on a field goal or extra point, which is similar to the rule on punts.
- If there is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty or personal foul by the defense on a field goal, the kicking team will have the option to have the penalty enforced on the ensuing kickoff.