New Rules for a New Season of Football
COLUMBIA - Due to concussions and injuries from previous NCAA college football seasons, the NCAA is increasing it's penalties. The NCAA hopes to keep the players safe with the new rules.
"It is a dangerous game and there will never be total player safety, but there are not many things in this world you can guarantee total safety," Southeastern's Conference Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw said.
"The athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, and tougher than they've ever been," Missouri Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel said. "And their explosions are bigger than they've ever been."
"What we hope to see is the technique getting better where they are not making impact in the head," Shaw said. "I mean we don't know all the impacts of these concussions and these dangers contact fouls, so air on the side of safety, lower your target, and you can still hit him very hard, and make a very effective block."
The old rule states a player cannot target a defenseless opponent above the shoulders, if the player does so, it's a 15-yard penalty.
Targeting is hitting an opponent with the crown of the helmet, or hitting a defenseless player above the shoulders to the head or neck area.
The old rule states a defenseless player is:
a. A player in the act of or just throwing a pass.
b. A receiver attempting to catch a pass or one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.
c. A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick, or the return.
d. A kick returner attempting to catch or recover a kick.
e. A player on the ground.
f. A player obviously out of the play.
The new rule consists of a larger definition of what type of player is considered defenseless and has a bigger penalty.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee expanded a defenseless player to include to the old definition of a defenseless player:
Added onto letter b. from above to include - one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become the ball carrier.
Added onto letter c. from above to include - or during the kick return
g. A player who receives a blind-side block.
h. A ball carrier already in the grasp of an opponent and whose forward progress has been stopped.
i. A quarterback any time after a change of possession.
The new penalty (in addition to the 15-yard penalty):
- If a player targets a defenseless player above the shoulders during the first half of the game the player will be disqualified for the rest of the game.
- If a player commits the foul during the second half of that game the player will not be able to play for the first half of the next game.
Additional changes to NCAA football rules approved by the NCAA Rules Committee can be viewed here.
There is a catch to the serious penalty, it's called instant replay. The replay official has the power to overturn the ruling on the field, therefore putting the player who committed the targeting foul back in the game. The replay official looks at every play during the game.
"I think the change with replay is going to take away that angst about boy what if I'm not exactly right," Shaw said.
"But our expectation is they'll make the call," Shaw said.
The harsh penalty has some Missouri football players frustrated. They explained they have to rethink the way they tackle. Fall camp was a time for the team to practice hitting "opponents" the right way, so come the season, there would be no targeting fouls called on the Tigers.
"For the whole mentality it's really, really different because we have been taught a certain way since we've been little kids," Missouri Junior Defensive Lineman Lucas Vincent said. "You know, hit that guy with the ball hard, that's really all it is and now it's just trying to keep it all safe. It's really just a whole different thing."
"I'm the type of dude that likes to hit people and now they are telling me I can't hit people the way I want to," Missouri Junior Safety Daniel Easterly said.
One position on defense that meets a good amount of defenseless players is the secondary. Safeties and corners say they have to think a bit more than usual when going to tackle a receiver when the ball is in the air.
"The one thing we talk about consistent with that is attempting to make a play on the ball opposed to kind of the old days of making a play through the man," Missouri Safeties Coach Alex Grinch said.
"I feel like it will be more muscle memory because we do a lot of form tackling drills and things like that," Missouri Sophomore Safety Ian Simon said. "But, when you get in the heat of the battle, you don't know how the receiver is going to react to the ball, and you're trying to make a play on the ball, so things just happen."
"But ultimately if you leave your feet, you're really at the mercy of where the ball is being placed and how the receiver approaches it and if you end up you know shoulder pad level or higher, you're at the mercy of the official's interpretation," Grinch said.
Pinkel said he saw two hits that were borderline targeting during practice, so the team sent the plays on video to the NCAA. The NCAA sent an explanation back to the football team which said one hit was considered targeting and why, and why the second hit was not targeting.
"You just got to practice staying low, below the shoulders every time and if you do that then in the game you will be less likely to hit above the shoulders," Missouri Junior Defensive Lineman Matt Hoch said.
"We are trying to work on different ways to where we can get them off balance or knock them down without getting penalized for it," Missouri Junior Defensive Lineman Kony Ealy said.
The team knows they have no choice but to follow the rule like it's a law."You've got to follow the rules regardless, and you don't want to take your team down at the end of the day, because we want to win, and penalties take the team down," Easterly said.
"We have to protect the people, or the game is going to get hurt bad, so I think we are doing the right things," Pinkel said.
"I think we can make this change and keep the game great," Shaw said. "Keep the principles in the game that we all love, and grow from, but take this dangerous component out, that's the goal."
An effort by players, coaches, referees - everyone within NCAA football - to keep the players safe, healthy, on the field, and out of the doctors office.