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    Tony Haynes: Blackman Gets Kick Out Of New Rules



    RALEIGH, N.C. The way NC State’s Darrell Blackman sees it, a college football rules change will play right into his hands this season. More specifically, one of the nation’s most dangerous return men expects get those hands on more kick offs.


    In an effort to speed up the game and limit the amount of touchbacks, college football rules makers have moved kick offs back five yards to the 30-yard line.


    “That brought a little smile to my face,” said the Wolfpack senior. “Knowing that we’ll get the opportunity to return more kicks and not have as many touchbacks is going to be great. I’ll get the chance to start the game off with a big play and turn it into a touchdown.”


    Big plays in the kicking game have become commonplace for Blackman, whose average of 28.63 yards per kick off return ranks No. 1 in school history. Named a first-team All-ACC performer as a specialist last season, he led the league with an average of 28.9 yards per return in 2006. Blackman was all the ACC’s best return man in 2005.


    This season, Blackman will try to take advantage of new return schemes brought in by special teams coach Jerry Peterscuskie, who carries an impressive rsum of his own. Last season, Petercuskie’s unit at Boston College ranked fourth nationally in kick off return yardage. Individually, freshman Jeff Smith was second only to Blackman in the ACC. Two years ago at B.C., Will Blackmon finished his career second on the NCAA’s all-time kick return yardage list.


    Darrell Blackman says Petercuskie’s schemes aren’t much different from what NC State ran when Chuck Amato was head coach.


    “We still run many of the same concepts with a few difference wrinkles in there,” Blackman said.


    A converted running back, Blackman will again be in NC State’s wide receiver rotation this season. But it is his experience as a running back that has made him one of the most lethal return men in college football. With players spread out horizontally on kick returns, Blackman has shown an uncanny ability to first find a seam and then accelerate through it for big yardage.


    It will be interesting to see just how many teams will risk kicking to Blackman this fall. With kick offs now coming from the 30-yard line, very few kickers in the college game will have the ability to boot the ball deep enough to create touchbacks. There could, in fact, be an escalation in shorter sky kicks, which are designed to keep the ball out of the hands of return men like Blackman. Either way, NC State should end up with terrific field position after kick offs since sky kicks usually sacrifice 10 to 12 yards of field position in an effort to prevent big returns.


    It’s an option that many coaches will have to consider.


    Meanwhile, Blackman will be given plenty of opportunities to touch the football every time NC State takes the field this season. Between returning kicks, punts and catching passes, the native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania figures to make plenty of big plays for the Wolfpack. After moving from tailback to wideout in the spring of 2006, Blackman was the Pack’s third leading receiver with 27 catches in 2006.


    He’ll join the likes of John Dunlap, Donald Bowens, Jarvis Williams, Darrell Davis and Andrew Evans on what should be a deep and talented receiving corps. Also waiting in the wings are highly-touted freshmen Jay Smith and Owen Spencer.


    “Even though we have only two seniors with John Dunlap and me, some of the young guys have stepped up this spring and fall and shown they’re ready to play,” Blackman said.


    A year ago, Blackman was a shining light in what was an otherwise dismal campaign for the NC State program. After enduring a 3-9 season that included a seven-game losing skid, the Pack is ready to move forward under new head coach Tom O’Brien.


    “We have a little bit more chemistry,” Blackman said. “It seems like everyone has a little more focus. We’re ready to get things started in a new system and under new coaches. Everyone as an upbeat tempo right now.”


    A tempo nearly as upbeat as a Darrell Blackman kick return.





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