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XFL returns this weekend — Here are the Notre Dame players to watch

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IT’S STILL FOOTBALL SEASON

XFL: DEC 16 Tampa Bay Vipers Mini-Camp
Tarean Folston
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The XFL returns to life this weekend after being dead for the past 19 years. It’s an exciting time for the sport of football. Last year’s AAF was met with a fair amount of positive feedback from fans, but the league ultimately ran out of money early into the season and folded without completion. The XFL has all of those lessons to learn from, and in many ways is in a great position to perform far better than the AAF ever did.

One of the exciting things for football fans, is to see former players from their favorite collegiate program have another chance for football glory. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a fair number of players on XFL rosters right now.

Notre Dame players in the XFL

  • Jarron Jones starting LT for New York Guardians
  • Scott Daly starting LS for NY Guardians
  • Greer Martini starting ILB for Dallas Renegades
  • Nyles Morgan backup MLB for Seattle Dragons
  • Tarean Folston is on IR for Tampa Bay Vipers

One of the interesting things about the XFL is that their media rights don’t belong to just one company. Fans will be able to catch XFL games on three different networks this season.

TV Schedule for XFL Week 1

  • 2/8 Seattle @ DC 2:00 PM ABC
  • 2/8 LA @ Houston 5:00 PM FOX
  • 2/9 Tampa @ New York 2:00 FOX
  • 2/9 St. Louis @ Dallas 5:00 PM ESPN

Rules

The XFL will have a fair number of rule changes from what we see in the NFL and college football. Here are those rule changes per Wikipedia:

Kickoffs

  • The spot of the kickoff will be set at the kicking team’s 25-yard line. (The NFL and college standard is the 35-yard line.) However, members of the kicking team (excluding the kicker) will line up at the receiving team’s 35-yard line and blockers on the receiving team must line up at their 30-yard line. Only the kicker and returner(s) can move until the ball is either caught or three seconds after it hits the ground.
  • Kickoffs that go out of bounds, or fall short of the receiving team’s 20-yard line, will come to the kicking team’s 45-yard line. (The NFL and NCAA only require a kick travel 10 yards; kicks out of bounds are placed at the receiving team’s 40 yard line.)
  • The XFL will use two different types of touchbacks. A major touchback occurs when a kick travels into the endzone in the air, which would result in the receiving team taking possession at the 35. A minor touchback occurs when the ball bounces into the endzone, which would result in the receiving team taking possession at the 15. These rules discourage either team from purposefully taking a touchback.
  • Teams can request to attempt an onside kick under more conventional kickoff rules.

Punts

  • The XFL will not allow gunners; all players on a punting team must remain on or behind the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. (This is a carryover from the original XFL, although that league had scrapped the rule midway through its only season).
  • The coffin corner punt would be treated as touchbacks and brought to the 35-yard line. The attempts to neutralize punt coverage are made with the intention of encouraging more fourth-down conversions.
  • The same touchback rules for kickoffs also applies to punts.

Points after touchdown

The extra point kick will be replaced with a scrimmage play, varying in point value depending on how far the touchdown-scoring team chooses to take the snap from the goal line: a two-yard attempt would score a single point, a five-yard attempt two points, and a ten-yard attempt three points. (This rule is also a carryover from the original XFL, which added the rule only for the playoffs. The Stars Football League also used the rule during its existence.) In the event the defense secures a turnover and returns the ball for a touchdown, the defensive team scores the same number of points as the offense was aiming to score.

Double-forward pass

Teams will be able to attempt two forward passes on the same play, so long as the ball never crosses the line of scrimmage before the second pass.

Overtime

Overtime will be decided by a five-round shootout of two-point conversions similar to a penalty shootout in soccer or ice hockey. Such a shootout had never been attempted in organized football at the time the rule was proposed; in April 2019, the NCAA adopted a similar concept for games that reach a fifth overtime starting with the 2019 FBS season. The defense is not able to score, as should a turnover occur, the play would be dead. Defensive penalties will result in the ball moving up to the 1-yard line, while a second defensive penalty on any play, even in future rounds, will result in a score awarded to the offensive team. To speed up the overtime process, both teams’ offense and defense will be on the field at the appropriate end zone. Once one team’s offense has completed its round of the shootout, the other team’s offense plays its round from the opposite end zone. These overtime rules ensure that both teams have an opportunity to win the game and would limit overtime to 5 or 6 minutes. If both teams remain tied after five rounds, multiple rounds of conversions will be played until one team succeeds, thus ensuring that no game can end in a draw.

Clock changes

  • Outside of the two-minute warning, the clock will run continuously. During this time, the clock would only stop during a change of possession. This will reverse after the two-minute warning (which the XFL will use), after which the clock will stop after all plays from scrimmage until the ball is spotted and will revert to NFL timing rules otherwise, stopping after incomplete passes, advancing the ball out of bounds and spiking the football. (Arena football has long used a continuous clock with even fewer stoppages; Canadian football does not use a continuous clock, but stops the clock after all plays from scrimmage following that code’s three-minute warning.)
  • The play clock will be 25 seconds long measured from the spotting of the ball, roughly the same as the NCAA rule for plays when the clock is stopped. (This is five seconds longer than the CFL rule, which is 20 seconds from the spotting of the ball. The XFL’s efforts to speed up spotting are aimed to make the two lengths of time nearly the same, 30 to 32 seconds overall.) The NFL standard is 40 seconds from the end of the previous play, also used during the NCAA during plays when the clock is running; the AAF and previous XFL measure was 35 seconds from the end of the previous play.
  • In conjunction with this rule, the XFL has proposed placing a one-way radio into all offensive players’ helmets to allow the offensive coordinator to run a no-huddle offense and call plays directly to all of the players from the sidelines. This would eliminate the need for a huddle.
  • Teams will be given two time-outs per half instead of three.
  • Instant replay reviews will be limited to 60 seconds. There will be no coach’s challenges; the sky judge will originate all reviews.

Officiating changes

  • A specialized ball judge will be added to the officiating team to speed up the placement of the ball. With the use of the NCAA system of eight officials, this will bring the number of on-field officials to nine. The league aims to have a spotting time of between five and seven seconds.
  • A new rule proposal would add a new “tap penalty”, imposed on individual players instead of entire teams. Players who commit a foul which is not serious enough to warrant a penalty flag will be sent off the field for one play. This type of enforcement will keep the game moving quickly without allowing players to break the rules. Unlike the almost-analogous power play used in ice hockey, the offending team would be allowed to substitute another player.
  • The defunct Alliance of American Football introduced the sky judge, an additional official in the press booth for the sole purpose of reviewing on-field decisions. Luck had said he thought this was a great innovation to the game and, in December 2019, confirmed the XFL would use a sky judge.
  • Penalty enforcement will place priority on fouls that pose a threat to player safety, with less emphasis on procedural violations so as not to slow down the game with unnecessary penalty calls. Officials would also have access to both teams’ play calls. The sky judge would also have full access to the officials’ microphones.