Monday, September 11, 2006

Short kickoffs continue

Ross Ryan (5th-yr. Senior) hit 8 kickoffs for 483 yards (60.4 yard/avg.) with 1 touchback vs. CMU. That gives Ryan two touchbacks out of 14 kickoffs (14%) this season whereas he knocked 40 of 69 (58%) for touchbacks in 2005 while using a 2" kicking tee. The rule change (Rule 2-15-4-c, Kicking Tee) put in place prior to this season mandates that the kicking tee may not elevate the ball's lowest point more than one-inch above the ground. The rationale for the rule change was that the change from a two-inch tee to a one-inch tee could lessen the number of touchbacks (and thus speed up the game). That has, in fact, certainly happened.

The rule change has caused a dramatic decrease in the number of touchbacks that Ryan has been able to kick and, thus, it has commensurately increased the pressure on the kickoff coverage team to make plays. Unfortunately, the kickoff coverage unit has not been up to the task thus far. In game two, CMU's Eric Fraser averaged 31 yards on five kickoff returns and he had two returns of 40+ yards. That's too many big plays and giving up too much field position by this special teams unit. They need to buckle down this week and work on staying in their lanes as they come down the field to make the tackle. As an aside, Ryan helped his own cause during the CMU game when he made a crushing tackle on the kick returner late in the game. It was the best tackle made by anyone on the unit all day. The rest of the guys could learn a thing or two from him. Go Blue!

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