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OU coach Bob Stoops: New kickoff rules a 'good thing'

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Published: March 17, 2012

College football coaching staffs face a philosophical decision how to approach new kickoff rules.

Attempting to minimize injuries, kickoffs have been moved up five yards, from the 30- to 35-yard line.

But if a coach asks their kicker to boom one through the end zone, touchbacks will be brought out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. Coverage units also are prohibited from taking more than a five-yard running start.

“I think it's a good thing,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. “Anything to avoid those huge and major collisions is a positive.”

Stoops likes both sides, giving and taking touchbacks.

“If you don't have a good go at it then take a knee and take it out to the 25,” Stoops said. “It's positive. And it will eliminate some big injuries that happen to everybody.”

OU has had its fair share of injuries on kickoffs.

Defensive end Ronnell Lewis last season suffered a strained knee on kickoff coverage. DeMarco Murray suffered a knee injury on an onside kick.

The new college rules announced last month won't eliminate injuries. But last season the NFL moved kickoffs up five yards, dramatically increasing touchbacks and reducing injuries.

Running backs coach Cale Gundy said OU's staff will discuss all options. Gundy believes many teams will take the trade off and have their defense take the field at the 25-yard line following touchbacks.

But OU punter Tress Way, who has kicked off in previous seasons, believes some kickers, including teammate Michael Hunnicutt, can be effective with a punter-like approach.

“The touchback rule at the 25 now is a big jump,” Way said. “If you hang it up there — and Hunnicutt can hang it up there for 4.0 or 4.1 seconds — I would try to kick it one or two (yards) deep into the end zone with some hang time because we have some freak athletes can run and hit somebody.

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