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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 28 2012

Bohl OK with kickoff rule change

FARGO – The NFL did it last year. The NCAA is taking cue and moving kickoffs up five yards next year in an effort to curb injuries.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel last week approved a recommendation that kickoffs will take place at the 35-yard line instead of the 30 with the intent of reducing injuries like concussions in one of the highest-impact plays in the game.

“We’re a reaction to the NFL,” said North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl.

Bohl is a member of the NCAA “suggestive rules committee” and he said the debate centered on safety.

“I think we’ll be OK with it,” he said.

Last year, NDSU kicker Ryan Jastram had his best year of touchbacks, meaning teams downed the ball in the end zone. His kickoffs on average were eight yards farther than NDSU’s opponents, and he had 12 touchbacks in 90 attempts.

NDSU opponents had just one touchback. But Jastram graduated, and the heir apparent to the job will be freshman Adam Keller.

“He’s showing signs he can do it,” Bohl said. “Adam has been sitting in the wings for two years, and now’s his time.”

In another move to inhibit returns, the NCAA panel moved the starting point for touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25. It would require a longer return for players taking the ball out of the end zone to reach the 25.

About the only counter-active move, Bohl said, is for the kickoff team to stage some sort of high, deep pooch kick to keep the ball inside the 25.

In other changes, the NCAA panel approved a rule requiring a player to leave the field immediately if he loses his helmet during a play and will be required to leave the game for one play. Players will also be barred from jumping over blockers to try and block a punt.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia