With NCAA rule changes only happening every other year, 2019 is considered an off-year according to Steve Shaw, coordinator of football officials for the Southeastern Conference, who addressed the media Tuesday morning at SEC Media Days.
“This is an off year,” he said, “which means there are a number of things we can do, but everything we're going to talk about today, this changing in our game, is to enhance player safety.”
After a seven-overtime shootout between Texas A&M and LSU in November, the NCAA has made changes to the way in which overtime is handled. In the absence of media timeouts, each team will be given a two minute break after the second and fourth timeout periods. The big news however comes after the fourth overtime period.
The first four periods will function as they have since 1997 when the NCAA introduced a rule change that required teams to begin attempting a two-point try after the third period. However, after the fourth overtime period, teams will continue to choose to go on offense or defense but will only be given a two-point try from the three-yard line. If the attempt fails then the next team gets an opportunity and so on.
“In the fifth overtime, it will all be handled administratively the same way,” Shaw said. “Whoever's choice it is will choose offense, defense or the end of the field will play that overtime period. But we're going to go immediately to the two-point play. We will not have drives.
“There's too many plays on some of these games, so this will be a great way to do it without changing the fabric of overtime.”
Also on the agenda were blind-side blocks and wedge blocks.
Shaw presented several video examples demonstrating the difference between offensive players blocking from the blind-side with force and using a “screen” technique.
“Another player safety change is around blind-side blocks,” he said. “We kind of know what these blind-side blocks are, but the key component is a block against an opponent that is initiated from outside that player's field of vision. The rule is no player should deliver a blind-side block by, again, attacking an opponent with forcible contact.”
A wedge block on kick returns will no longer require contact to be a penalty on kick returns. Instead, if two players are aligned shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other, it will be penalty beginning with the 2019 season.
No longer will targeting calls be allowed to simply “stand”, calls on the field must be either confirmed or overturned by the replay official. SEC officials are still being directed to “when in doubt, throw the flag”, but the review process is being reevaluated.
“What we're going to do, we're going to tell the replay official now, when you get a targeting foul, we want you to start back at the beginning of it. For it to stay targeting, you must be able to confirm all aspects of a targeting foul for it to be confirmed.”
If any part element of targeting can not be confirmed by the replay official, then the call on the field will be overturned. Shaw discussed the elements of targeting, including a player launching himself, crouching “followed by an upward thrust”, leading with the helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow and lowing the head to initiate a tackle in the head or neck area.
All of these changes will go into affect this season as college football celebrates its 150th year, beginning with Florida and Miami facing off at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.