Not So Special

Dennis Johnson

Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker and kick returner Dennis Johnson are not in favor of the NCAA's new kickoff rules, but plan to adjust to the changes.

The NCAA has changed its kickoff rules and the man who will kick the ball off for Arkansas and the man who hopes to return the boots of the other team are not big fans at all.

Instead of kicking off from the 30 this season, teams will place the ball at the 35.

Also the kickoff team can only have a five-yard running start to fly down the field and if you lose your helmet during the return – you must sit out at least one play.

Not to mention a touchback will now come back to the 25, instead of the 20 – which junior kicker Zach Hocker does not like.

"I think it kind of defeats the purpose," Hocker said. "You move the ball five yards closer to give them a touchback and then you give them five extra yards.

"You are know going to have coaches who are going to want to drop it in and pin them inside the 20," Hocker added. "Personally I think if we keep on putting it out of the end zone we can just rely on our defense. That's one less opportunity that they have to run it all the way back on us."

Hocker, who was second in the nation last season in touchbacks with 40 and third in percentage at 43.1, explained his thoughts a little more.

"If I am chipping it inside the five, then that is more room for me to mess up to make a mistake and for our coverage team to make a mistake," Hocker said. "I would just like to keep on kicking touchbacks and counting on our defense."

The NFL moved it to the 35 last season and had 50 percent less concussions on kickoffs.

That was in large part because the touchback rate went from 18.8 percent in 2010 to 45.9 percent in 2011 after the rule change.

Senior Dennis Johnson, the school's all-time leading kick returner, is afraid he and fellow returner Marquel Wade are going to turn into just kick catchers.

"The first thing that went through my mind was that I have got to talk to Coach about bringing it out of the end zone," Johnson said. "If we can't, it is going to mess us up a whole bunch."

Johnson and Wade combined to return 32 kicks with each averaging 25.6 yards and each taking one return back for a touchdown.

"With me and Marquel back there, that is two people that can take it to the house at any point in the game," Johnson said. "So who you going to kick it to? You can either kick to us or kick it out of bounds.

"It's a win-win, lose-lose situation," Johnson added. "But I want to return it. Clearly they are worried about injuries, but I think this just takes a great play out of the game and I don't like that at all."

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