Commentary

The Insider: Shunning onside kicks

Coaches are costing their teams wins by avoiding this basic play

Updated: August 20, 2009, 7:21 AM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine
Getty ImagesJared Strubeck, doing what he did better than anyone else the past four years in college football.

This article appears in the August 24 issue of ESPN The Magazine in the new Insider column spot near the front of the volume.

Jared Strubeck was the best at what he did in all of college football the past four seasons, a threat to change the course of any game. So why have you never heard of him? Because his specialty, the onside kick, is the last resort for losing teams. Or so his coaches believed. Guess what? They're wrong. Yet another exhibit in the case to be made that football coaches are the ultimate in conservative thinking.

From 2005 through 2008, Strubeck and the San Jose State Spartans recovered the most onside kicks in FBS (eight) and had the best recovery rate (61.5%, minimum 10 attempts). "I got to where I was controlling the ball 100%," he says. "We knew where it was going, how high it was going and who was going to run to it."

To read more about this and understand the methodology behind successful onside kicks and what it can do for a program, you must be an ESPN Insider. Insider
Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.