New rule for kickoffs has coaches pondering how to adjust
A college football rule change this season has teams kicking off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30.
Though the move makes it easier for place-kickers to get touchbacks, the new rule also calls for the ball to be placed at the 25 instead of the 20 on a touchback.
So coaching staffs around the country, including the one at LSU, have been discussing how they want to change their approach to kickoffs, or even if they want to change.
“We’re not really ready to reveal a strategy change, but we’re not really ready to say it’s going to be much different, either,” Tigers coach Les Miles said cryptically. “We’re just trying to figure out what difference does five yards really mean.”
Another aspect of the rule change limits players covering kickoffs to a 5-yard head start. The key question is whether teams kicking off are better off trying for touchbacks that put the ball at the 25 or trying tackle returners inside the 25.
“There’s some issue with whether or not you can trap them down in there,” Miles said, adding that it might be best to just live with the ball being placed at the 25 if the opponent has an exceptional returner.
“You’ll find that there are similarities to the way the game is going to be played,” Miles said. “I think it will give way to some different strategy, but I don’t necessarily want to talk about that.”
The strategy will begin to be revealed Sept. 1 when the Tigers open the season against North Texas in Tiger Stadium.
Eugene staying busy
Redshirt freshman defensive back Micah Eugene of Acadiana has a chance to be one of the more important players in the Tigers secondary. Eugene is listed as the No. 2 strong safety behind junior Craig Loston, who has been injured during preseason camp, continuing a trend that has plagued Loston throughout his career.
Though Miles said Loston is getting close to being healthy, Eugene could be used in a variety of ways. His coverage skills could put him on the field in LSU’s five- and six-defensive-back schemes.
“Micah is playing a lot of football and playing very well,” Miles said.
The nickel and dime schemes are still a work in progress, thanks in part ot Loston’s injury as well as the unexpected dismissal of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu on Aug. 10.
“We’re still working on that,” Miles said. “We want to get everybody healthy first, but we’re working bits and pieces. I think our defense in nickel and dime will be very, very capable.”
Eugene could also help fill the void LSU has with its outside coverage on punts. Mathieu and Ron Brooks were outstanding in manning those positions last season, but both are gone. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who excelled on kickoff coverage as a true freshman last season, seems to have secured one of the positions, and Eugene is close to doing the same with the other.
“Micah Eugene is going to be a very good end,” Miles said.
Randall not forgotten
Miles has praised redshirt freshman Stephen Rivers and Penn State transfer Rob Bolden, a junior, for their competition to be Zach Mettenberger’s primary backup at quarterback. But, he said, don’t forget about another redshirt freshman, Jerrard Randall.
“He’s taking snaps and he’s getting better,” Miles said. “I’m watching him compete. I think he’s doing a good job. I think we’ll be ready at quarterback.”