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Paul Johnson questions cut-blocking rule change

Paul Johnson doth protest.

A day after the NCAA approved a rule change that will ban blocks below the waist that occur five yards beyond the line of scrimmage – a small facet of the Georgia Tech option offense – the Yellow Jackets coach called it to question.

Following his team’s spring-practice scrimmage Saturday morning, Johnson said that the rule may affect Tech to some degree, “but I noticed it’s five yards downfield, so it doesn’t affect the bubble screens or the RPOs or anything.”

Bubble screens and the run-pass option (RPO) are plays that have gained in popularity that can include cut blocks – blocks thrown below the waist – within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The topic of cut blocking often irks Johnson, as the block is often claimed to be dangerous and his offense frequently is associated with it. Johnson’s typical response has been to ask for research that supports the contention. He also has noted that the Jackets are hardly the only team that employs blocking below the waist.

“Either blocking below the waist is dangerous or it’s not,” Johnson said. “It’s not anymore dangerous five yards down the field than it is on the line of scrimmage. If it’s that scary, they ought to not tackle below the waist.”

Tech may not be affected greatly. The blocks that Tech A-backs throw on runs to the perimeter typically are executed within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

The NCAA also approved a rule change that will allow teams receiving kickoffs inside their 25-yard line to call for a fair catch that would be equivalent to a touchback, with the ball placed on the 25-yard line. The change was enacted to improve player safety, as kickoff plays often can result in injuries.

“I think that’s probably to keep teams from sky kicking and the collisions (that ensue),” Johnson said. “The teams who probably struggle in kickoffs return-wise will fair catch ’em if you do that. The other teams will try to return ’em if they’re good.”

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