If all goes as planned, there won't be a lot of excitement on kickoffs for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga this football season.
Coach Russ Huesman, who begins his fourth season Saturday night at South Florida, wants to put every kickoff deep into the end zone and wants touchbacks on UTC's returns when possible.
In February, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved several changes relating to kickoffs, all with an eye on player safety. The kickoff has been moved up 5 yards to the 35, coverage teams can get only a 5-yard running start instead of 10 and possessions now start at the 25 following kickoff touchbacks.
Mocs returner Chaz Moore was No. 19 in the Football Championship Subdivision last season with an average return of 26 yards. Huesman said it doesn't make much sense to run the ball out when it would take a 26-yard return from the goal line to surpass what you get for sure with a touchback.
"I know you've got a shot to break one, but ... I think [the touchback] is probably the smarter way to go," he said.
The Mocs will be counting on the strong leg of true freshman Henrique Ribeiro from Baylor School -- a TSSAA Mr. Football kicker of the year from Brazil -- to drive the ball through the end zone on kickoffs. Huesman said Ribeiro likely will handle kickoffs and long field goals, while redshirt sophomore Nick Pollard does shorter kicks and punts.
"I like our legs" is how Huesman put it during his talk to the Chattanooga Quarterback Club on Monday.
Ribeiro showed some rust at the start of the preseason but came on strong in the middle of August. He not only showed leg strength on kickoffs into the end zone -- the Mocs had just one touchback in 2011 -- but he showed strength and accuracy on field goals, including connecting on a 58-yarder last week.
"I have a lot more confidence in myself that I'm going to be able to make it," said Ribeiro, who made a 57-yarder in a game for Baylor. "I'm not just kicking it and hoping it will go in."
Search firm hired
UTC has hired the search firm Collegiate Sports Associates to help with the university's search for a new athletic director. CSA's founder and president is Todd Turner, who spent more than 20 years as an athletic director, including at Vanderbilt (1996-2003) and Washington (2004-08).
According to CSA's website, the firm helped Western Carolina with its search for an athletic director last year.