Less kicks, more tricks for Purdue's Mostert

The new kickoff rules in college football could take away from what Purdue's Raheem Mostert does best.

Teams will now kick off from the 35-yard line instead of the 30, likely creating more touchbacks and kicks out of the back of the end zone. And that could lessen the effectiveness of Mostert, who led the nation last year in kickoff returns at 33.5 yards per attempt.

"That's crazy," Mostert said of the new rules. "Moving it up means we'll have to work harder to bring it out [of the end zone] if we bring it out. You really have to focus on seeing where the ball is going to be kicked."

Mostert is trying to get a handle on how the new kickoff procedures will go during Purdue's spring practice, which began Tuesday. He got used to returning deep kicks last year while fielding them from big-legged teammate Carson Wiggs.

But even if Mostert doesn't make as big of an impact on special teams this season, he still has a chance to be a playmaker for the Boilermakers.

He showed off his explosiveness on those kickoffs as a true freshman last season and also carried the ball for touchdowns against Minnesota and Illinois. You don't have to be a Purdue aeronautics professor to see how valuable his skills could be to an offense that lacked major difference-makers. There was some thought that Mostert might try defensive back this season, but head coach Danny Hope shot that down by saying, "We have to think of more ways to get the ball in his hands."

So Mostert, who didn't have any catches last year, is working out as a slot receiver this spring and occasionally lining up in the backfield. It's a familiar role for him as he played all over the field in high school in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

"I was really a running back when I first started playing football," he said. "My senior year, I played slot and took some handoffs and caught some screens. So I'm pretty comfortable with it. I just need to get back into it."

Purdue had success with its screen game last season, and Mostert's open-field ability opens up a lot of different possibilities. He could be the new version of Michigan State's Keshawn Martin, a guy he resembles in build (Mostert is listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds). Dump off a short pass to him over the middle, and it's almost like starting a kickoff return.

"Pretty much," he said. "Sometimes you just have to make one move, make one guy miss and bust it. No hesitation. I'm not the biggest guy, but I know I'm going to make something happen."

And if so, he can live with not getting as many chances to do what he did best in 2011.