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Arkansas State vs. Nebraska, 9/2/17

Nebraska's JD Spielman points to the student section as he returns a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter against Arkansas State in Nebraska's season-opening win.

About 24 hours after the NCAA announced rules changes regarding touchbacks on kickoffs, Nebraska special teams coordinator Jovan Dewitt had only just begun running through different scenarios in regards to how the Huskers will handle the new look on kickoffs.

Starting with his own job security.

"Now I'm starting to wonder if we're even going to need a special teams coordinator," Dewitt joked Saturday morning.

In an effort to decrease injuries during kickoffs, the NCAA amended the kickoff rules to allow the receiving team to fair catch a kick inside its own 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.

In short, if you throw your hand up for a fair catch on a kick between the 25 and the goal line and make the catch, no matter where that is, your team starts with the ball on the 25.

"I think it does change a lot of things," Dewitt said. "It takes a little bit of the old strategy out of the game, where you're trying to get the ball to land at the one or the two-yard line."

Nebraska is a long way from formulating any strategy in regards to the new rules — both when the Huskers are kicking off and when they're receiving — but it was clear Dewitt has already put some thought into the matter.

"Unless your'e guaranteed with a kicker to be able to create a touchback, you may have to go to a long, hard squib kick to force those guys to get into a return mentality," Dewitt said.

But that requires a kickoff specialist to not only have a strong leg, Dewitt said, but also the accuracy to find pockets in an opponent's kickoff return setup.

When it comes time for NU to receive a kick, how the Huskers handle the new rule will likely depend on the skillset of the players back to field the ball.

"If you've got a really dynamic returner, you might tell him never to fair catch it, and run the risk of getting tackled on the 20, but also getting it out to a big, massive return," Dewitt said. "I think you've got to look at your personnel and then formulate a strategy off of that based on their kicker's skill set."

Weather could also play a role, Dewitt said. Is it good, bad, or otherwise? What's the wind doing? Is it raining? 

Basing kickoffs on the weather conditions was something the Nebraska staff started doing last season at Central Florida, Dewitt said.

"Now it all that becomes an even bigger factor in your play calling," he explained.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


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