College football has a rule that discourages leaping to block kicks and punts.
“No defensive player, in an attempt to gain an advantage, may step, jump or stand on an opponent,” the rulebook says. It gets a little more complicated, but that’s the basic.
So you can’t do this, for example:
The leaping rule isn’t invoked often, but it can be a big deal.
Michigan State lost a game at Indiana in 2016 after a Spartan defender hurdled Indiana’s protection unit. The Hoosiers kicker missed his field goal attempt in overtime, but he got another try because of the leaping foul, and he hit it.
Watch Michigan State’s No. 34, Drake Martinez, the leaper:
On that play, Martinez did his best to clear Indiana’s line and block the kick. It was close, but officials ruled that he landed on someone —- a 15-yard (or half-the-distance) penalty and an automatic first down. It didn’t technically matter whether Martinez landed on a teammate or an opponent. Either constituted leaping under the old NCAA rule.
The NCAA expanded the rule in 2017 to penalize players whether they landed on an opponent or not. Previously, a clean jump wasn’t a penalty.
In the past, players could run toward the line of scrimmage and try to jump over blockers to swat away a field goal, and it could be well within the rules. A play wasn’t a leaping foul if the defender in question reached the line of scrimmage before he jumped, or if an offensive player “initiated contact” against the player who jumped. And the leaping rule didn’t apply to linemen who were stationary at the time of the snap.
In 2016, Penn State’s Big Ten East-turning win over Ohio State happened because the Nittany Lions’ Marcus Allen blocked a field goal with a totally legal leap:
Did Allen (No. 2 in blue) run toward the line of scrimmage and try to jump over blockers to deny a field goal? Yes. Did he land on someone? It’s possible, though it’s close. But the play was legal anyway because he reached the neutral zone before he jumped.
You can read the full rule below:
No defensive player, in an attempt to gain an advantage, may step, jump or stand on an opponent.
It is a foul if a defensive player moves forward and tries to block a field goal or try by leaving his feet and leaping into the plane directly above the frame of the body of an opponent.
It is not a foul if the player was aligned in a stationary position within one yard of the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.
It is a foul if a defensive player who is inside the tackle box tries to block a punt by leaving his feet and leaping into the plane directly above the frame of the body of an opponent.
It is not a foul if the player tries to block the punt by jumping straight up without attempting to leap over the opponent.
It is not a foul if a player leaps through or over the gap between players.
No defensive player, in an attempt to block, bat or catch a kick, may: 1. Step, jump or stand on a teammate. 2. Place a hand(s) on a teammate to get leverage for additional height. 3. Be picked up by a teammate, or be elevated, propelled or pushed.
PENALTY [a-d]—15 yards, previous spot and automatic first down. [S38]