Josh Kendall

The ‘old-school rule’ South Carolina special teams no longer follow

There’s one in every crowd. Usually, more than one. The person watching the game from the stands or a living room who watches a player field a punt inside the 10-yard line and groans, “Everyone knows you never catch a punt inside the 10.”

Well, actually.

“Heels on the 10, don’t back up is the old-school rule,” South Carolina special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler said.

That rule has changed, at least some, because of the prevalence of punters who now use a rugby-style kick and are adept at making the ball bounce backward or settle when it lands.

“Guys are doing a much better job of really dropping that ball on the 8-yard line or the 7-yard line,” Hutzler said. “Obviously, you don’t want to catch the ball on the 1, but I’ll take first-and-10 on the 8 before first-and-10 on the 1. It’s a little bit of a Catch 22.”

The Gamecocks coaching staff tells its players to drift no further back than the 10-, 9- or 8-yard lines, and the line changes each week based on the punter they are facing, Hutzler said.

“It’s getting harder and harder,” he said.