How exactly will the new kickoff rule affect Clemson this year? More exact, how will it affect the defense?
The new kickoff rule allows a team to fair catch a football anywhere inside the 20-yard line and it will be brought out to the 25. Coaches have not figured out a plan just yet, but it will be interesting to see how they attack the new rule and what their plans will be against defenses like Clemson’s and Alabama’s.
Clemson will probably elect to kick the ball out of the end zone in most instances, forcing teams to start at the 25-yard line. The numbers are very favorable for the Tigers when they did that last year. However, they might force the opponent’s hand and have them make a choice … fair catch it and bring it to the 25 or take a chance with a return and see what happens.
The new kickoff rule was put in place to help take away some of the dangers with concussions. Studies have shown a majority of the concussions suffered in a game happen on kickoffs.
Last year, Clemson kicked off 88 times. No one returned any of the kicks for scores and the longest return allowed all season was 33 yards.
Of the 88 kickoffs, 61.4 percent of them ended in punts and 36.4 percent of the time opponents’ possessions ended in a three-and-out. Twelve possessions following a kick ended on downs or due to a turnover. Clemson’s defense also forced nine turnovers in these situations.
Here is the tricky part, Clemson allowed just 13 scores in 88 attempts after a kickoff in 2017, that comes out to 14.7 percent. Of those 13 scores, only four of those drives were started inside the 25-yard line.
Of drives that started on their 25, opponents scored just four times in 30 attempts (13.3 percent) and scored once after starting on the 25 in the last 11 games.
“It is probably going to be different from game to game, kick to kick, depending on the situation you are involved in during the flow of the game,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said recently. “That will probably be case-by-case bases.”
With Clemson returning eight starters off a defense that ranked second nationally in scoring defense and fourth in total defense, it probably would not hurt to take a chance every now and again and run the ball out. The success rate against Clemson proved to be higher when an opponent started outside its own 25-yard line.
Opponents were 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) in these situations, including 3-for-6 when a drive started at its 35 or greater following a kick return.
“I don’t know if you will say this is what we are doing every time. I think it depends on who you are playing and what is the situation in the game,” Swinney said.
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