Last Modified: Thursday, September 06, 2012 5:50 PM
So far, one of college football’s new rules seems to be much ado about nothing as far as LSU is concerned.
LSU’s kickoff and punt coverage teams have been so deadly efficient in recent years, it’s almost become became a game within the games for fans to detect who dishes out the most punishment.
But there were so many moving parts to this year’s new kickoff rule that even the coaching staff wasn’t sure how the variables would play out.
Under the new rules for kickoffs the ball was moved up 5 yards, to the 35, theoretically making it easier to reach the end zone for a touchback.
But touchbacks, which had always been placed at the 20-yard line, this year will come out to the 25.
But there’s also the new rule that the coverage team is limited to a 5-yard running start, presumably making it tougher to get down to the kill zone.
Head coach Les Miles said the Tigers aren’t trying to overanalyze it with placekicker James Hairston.
Miles said he would prefer a high kick that comes down inside the 5-yard line, trusting his mad-dash coverage team to get downfield and wreak havoc inside the 20, as has become their custom.
“We told him to give us hang time,” Miles said of Hairston’s instructions. “If he gives us great hang time we ought to be able to get down there and stop the man from getting to the 20.”
But with 5 fewer yards to reach the end zone, Miles said he can handle if a high kick carries to the end zone and is not returned.
“We’ll take those mistakes,” Miles said. “It’s going to happen when you’re kicking with the wind.”
Hairston kicked off eight times against North Texas with four of them reaching the end zone. Another was returned from a yard deep and three others were returned from inside the 10. But only one of the returners got past the 22-yard line.
“He gave us great kicks, and some of them went out of the back of the end zone,” Miles said. “We can take that.”
Miles said LSU’s punt coverage was also rock solid with no return yards on two boots even though preseason All-American punter Brad Wing was held out of the game with slight tightness in his hamstring.
Not that there wasn’t an entertaining adventure with fellow Australian Jamie Keehn taking over and having the first snap he ever saw in an American football game sail high to him from freshman Reid Ferguson, the No. 1-ranked deep snapper in the country coming out of high school last year.
“I think he will be one of the great snappers we’ve had here in some time,” Miles said of Ferguson, who got a scholarship just for that chore. “But his first one he had a little anxiety and threw it over the punter’s head.”
Not to worry. Keehn retrieved it, dodged the rush and got off a sideways 38-yarder that was downed at the North Texas 16-yard line.
Miles sounded like LSU may have used its last American punter.
“The good news for the new punter is that is probably the most rehearsed he’s ever been,” Miles said. “In Australia, what he does is field balls off the ground, turns and he punts it.
“As it went through his hands, I personally was having a heart attack. Whereas, Jamie Keehn said, “Ah, a ball on the ground, how fortunate for me.’ He turned a couple of steps and banged it. I thought that was magnificent.”
But Miles added, “I don’t want him to do that anymore. But in the absence of a great snap, a very quality ad-lib.”
It’s doubtful Keehn will get the chance anytime soon.
Miles said he expects Wing back for Saturday’s Washington game.