2012 CU football schedule
Sunday, Sept. 2 - Colorado State, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Saturday, Sept. 8 - Sacramento State at Folsom Field
Saturday, Sept. 15 - At Fresno State
Saturday, Sept. 22 - At Washington State
Saturday, Sept. 29 - UCLA at Folsom Field
Thursday, Oct. 11 - Arizona State at Folsom Field
Saturday, Oct. 20 - At Southern California
Saturday, Oct. 27 - At Oregon
Saturday, Nov. 3 - Stanford at Folsom Field
Saturday, Nov. 10 - At Arizona
Saturday, Nov. 17 - Washington at Folsom Field
Friday, Nov. 23 - Utah at Folsom Field
Colorado coach Jon Embree has his doubts when it comes to how successful the new kickoff rules will be in limiting injuries in the future. In fact, Embree believes the rules might lead to just as many if not more players getting hurt.
The NCAA adopted rules changes for the 2012 season moving the kickoff line up from the 30 to the 35-yard line. It also limited members of the kicking team to no more than a five-yard running start.
The idea behind those changes was to limit the number of kickoffs being returned by setting up more touchbacks and also to slow tacklers down slightly for those kickoffs that are returned.
But those changes might have been undermined by a companion rule that gives the receiving team the ball at the 25-yard line following touchbacks instead of the 20.
Embree said he is reluctant to give opponents the extra five yards and he believes many of his peers will feel the same and won't want their kickers booting the ball out of the back of the end zone. That could mean a lot of kickers around the nation this spring will be directed to practice kicking off high and not so deep.
Embree said it will likely become a common strategy to force a return by kicking the ball only to the 5- or 10-yard lines.
"I think you high pooch it and cover it," Embree said. "What I think will happen is if you get effective at that, you're putting the other team even more at risk than what the rule intended because unless he fair catches it, he can really take a shot because everyone is closer obviously.
"It will be interesting to see how that plays out. If you get a guy who can kick it to the 7-yard line every time, you can mishandle it and then you will have collisions. It will be interesting to see if they tweak this rule over time. The returner has to have good judgment and a good feel. You're never used to fair catching kickoffs, even though that is something you can do. There are a lot of timing issues that go into a kickoff return that now you're going to have to figure out as a return guy."
Embree said he understands the good intentions behind the rule and he supports attempts to limit injuries and improve player safety, but some are not as well thought out as others. Embree said the rule could take some of the most exciting plays on Saturday afternoons out of the game because dynamic kick returners will get fewer opportunities because of more touchbacks and changes in strategy.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee suggested the changes after reviewing data showing injuries occur more frequently on kickoffs than other plays. The NFL adopted similar changes last year.
Colorado team physician, Dr. Eric McCarty, a former fullback and inside linebacker for the Buffs in the mid-1980s, said he is interested to see how the new rules affect the number of concussions and other serious injuries players sustain over the course of the season, as well as how it changes coaching strategies within the game.
McCarty who has served as a team physician for the past nine years at CU and the University of Denver and four years previously at Vanderbilt, said he hasn't noticed more injuries on kickoffs than other plays in the game over the course of his career.
"I think in all football there are so many different plays that occur that a guy can get hurt on," McCarty said. "You could say the same thing on a punt, the people get hurt on punt, because people are at such a full speed going down the field.
"So I know the intent of it was to reduce concussions and injuries and we'll see how that plays out."
Embree said he does not plan to spend a lot of time this spring practicing kickoffs. He said the special teams emphasis will be on the punt game and the team will focus more time on kickoffs in August.
The Buffs finished last season 115th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging just 18.6 yards per return. They were 78th in kickoff coverage allowing 22.5 yards per return.
Last season's seniors will be in Boulder Thursday for pro timing day and spring practices kick off on Saturday afternoon.
All sessions, except the April 14 spring game, are closed to the public this year.