CHESTNUT HILL MA - SEPTEMBER 11: Nate Freese #85 of the Boston College Eagles kicks off against the Kent State Golden Flashes on September 11 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill Massachusetts. Boston College defeated Kent State 26-13. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Yesterday Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples wrote an article supporting Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano's proposal to eliminate kickoffs in college football. Schiano's reason for this revolutionary idea came after the devastating injury to Eric LeGrand, which he rightfully believes could have been avoided if kickoffs didn't exist.
For all college football fans the LeGrand injury was horrific and we all would want to see spinal cord/neck injuries disappear, but would getting rid of this facet of college football even be possible? Staples' argument makes sense: kick/punt returners are unprotected, defenses get a 50-70 yard sprint to make the hit, which increases injury risks. Staples also says that kickoffs can change games, which he believes detracts from the game. Why should a game be determined by that?
Whether you agree to this proposal or not, let's look at how a college football world without kickoffs would affect Boston College.
BC was dead last in the ACC in kick off return yard average last season
Think about this for a second. BC had the worst kickoff return game in the conference. They averaged four yards less than Virginia Tech (who had the most in the ACC) and all of zero return touchdowns. With an offense as limp as the Eagles, special teams are vital to put them in good field position, which they hardly ever did last year. Standardizing the kickoff game for all teams would be a huge benefit for the Eagles, who are bringing back the same set of kick returners that struggled mightily last year. Would this argument dissolve if BC had a returner like Will Blackmon? Probably, but that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon.
Schiano's major point that kickoffs are a major cause of injuries is hard to dispute. Lesser but still critical injuries happen constantly on kick returns, and to players who make major contributions in other roles on offense and defense. Luke Kuechly covers kick returns. How would you feel if he blew out his knee on a fluke play covering a return? Montel Harris and Andre Williams both return kicks. Would you like to see them getting unnecessarily banged up returning a kick? No, I'd rather see Montel Harris run the ball 30 times. If an injury happened there, then so be it.
Keeps emphasis on Boston College's strengths: the defense
Think back to the Nevada game, what was the straw that broke the camel's back? A punt return for a touchdown. Those types of turns are frustrating as hell. BC's defense had done such a great job containing Colin Kaepernick and keeping the Eagles in the game (despite the complete inadequacy of the offense), then all of a sudden it was out of reach. Kickoff returns for a touchdown or returns that place our opponents in great field position can easily kill any chance BC has at winning the game because the offense struggles so much to put up points. Eliminating the kickoff would allow the stellar defense to dictate field position, which would be a huge benefit for BC.
Eliminating the kickoff is an idea that is hard to swallow for many traditionalists, but might make some sense, especially for a team like Boston College. It would save our star players from unnecessary injuries, keep the outcome of the game on our defense and offense and remove a part of the game that BC was struggled with.
I'd be interested to hear what Coach Spaz's point of view is on this topic or if he has ever even thought of it. Schiano's idea is definitely different, but kickoffs probably aren't going anywhere for a while. But would it honestly be that bad if it disappeared?