The opening kickoff Saturday--and all other kickoffs this season for that matter--will look a lot different than in the past thanks to an off-season decision by the NCAA to adopt the NFL policy banning wedge blocking. UCLA’s special teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr., is not too happy about it.
A wedge is defined as more than two players lined up shoulder to shoulder in order to provide blocking for the return man.
“To me it wasn’t very well thought out in doing it,” Gansz said. “It’s sort of a knee-jerk reaction.”
The NCAA rules committee proposed the change after reviewing NCAA research that indicated one out of five injuries on kickoff teams resulted in a concussion. Most of those came to “wedge breakers” or players whose duty was to take out one or two of the members of the wedge.
Gansz, who coached special teams for 10 years in the NFL before joining the Bruins’ staff in 2008, was especially displeased with the timing of the change, which came in April—too late to start coaching new return formations in Spring camp—and said the rules committee should have consulted with coaches before making the change.
“They just changed the rule without asking anybody,” he said. “Why would you just go change something without consulting the people that are teaching it?”
He said kickoff returns will be greatly affected, especially if the officials are strict with enforcement of the new rule. An infraction is a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul or from the spot of the tackle if the ball carrier is tackled behind the illegal wedge.
“Now it puts another burden on the officiating and it’s already difficult enough to officiate kicking downs as it is,” Gansz said. “It’s just going to be more problems for them.”