'Freaks' will determine approach to kickoffs

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If there had only been one adjustment, maybe there would be no decision to make.

Scooting the ball five yards closer obviously makes booming a kickoff into the end zone a bit easier. For a team like Ohio State that already had a leg that could handle the old distance, blasting it clear out of the back with consistency has perhaps become a realistic option.

But the new NCAA rules also balanced that yardage out providing some in exchange for the return team, with touchbacks now bringing the ball back out to the 25-yard line when an offense takes over. And that additional change might not always provide the intended goal of more touchbacks and less violence on kickoffs.

Rather than give up that yardage and just let Drew Basil swing away, Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer appears to have other ideas for his kickoff man and coverage unit, depending on who is standing at the other end of the field.

"Depends on who we’re facing," Meyer said. "If we’re facing a freak where it’s a problem, yeah, kick it out of the end zone. The 25-yard line where they get it back, there’s also that five yards, that’s a big difference.

"If it’s someone we can handle I think, we’re going to try to drop it in there. If it’s a guy that we don’t want to touch the ball, we’d like to drive it deep."

Meyer has long placed an emphasis on special teams as critical to a game's outcome, and he has made it well known he believes the rule changes are significant.

In addition to the headstart for the kicker, the NCAA cut the one the rest of the unit used to enjoy in half by limiting the running start to 5 yards down from 10. That's forced Meyer and his staff to get creative with their schemes in training camp, and how quickly the Buckeyes adapt figures to also play into the weekly decision-making process of what to do when the ball gets teed up.

"It’s a huge rule," Meyer said. "I’ve coached kickoff now for 25 years, and without the running start -- I’m all for player safety and I think it will help, but you don’t have near the momentum going. If you have a 10-yard running start, you’re hitting it at full speed like that. And we do a lot of moving around, so it’s completely changed how we approach kickoff."

And how Meyer handles it from week to week is subject to change as well.