Watch the Refs

Thursday morning at Southeastern Conference Media Days started with Head of Officials and former SEC referee Rogers Redding going over rule changes and items of added emphasis for the 2008 season. Redding stressed four issues, complete with a video presentation, for the media and fans to be on the watch for in the 2008 season.

First is a new emphasis on patrolling head-to-head contact by a defender. Redding showed clips of defenders leading with the crown of the helmet into the helmet of the offensive player when trying to break up a pass. This contact, Redding said, presents danger to both the defender delivering the hit and the offensive player receiving it, and such contact should result in a 15-yard penalty this season.

Second, there is a new rule in the SEC, following in the footsteps of the NFL rule, which prohibits the so-called horse-collar tackle. This occurs when a defender grabs ball-carrier by the inside of his shoulder pads or jersey and yanks him to the ground. There is a caveat, however, to the rule that Redding tried to point out in showing the video. A horse-collar tackle will only be illegal when the defender immediately pulls the defender to the ground. The defender is still allowed to grab a player by his pads as long as he reels him in and tackles him in a more conventional fashion.

Third, Redding said there will be a renewed "emphasis" on referring taunting and excessive celebration. The video celebrations Redding said would be prohibited this year were pretty tame in general. The first clip showed an Oregon player running through the back of the end zone in completion of the touchdown play and taking three extra steps and jumping embracing for two seconds with fans in the corner of the end zone. This milder version of the Lambeau leap should be called a personal foul, Redding said.

The next clip showed a player acting like he was taking one swing of an axe after sacking a quarterback, and the third showed a USC player pointing at the defender who was supposed to be covering him after he scored a touchdown. The SEC wants its players, who are trained to be aggressive and self-confident, to be so in a gentlemanly way.

The final new rule Redding called to the media's attention was a new policy for sideline warnings. This will be fun to watch to see if any SEC coaches shoot themselves in the foot by forgetting the new rule. This year, a first sideline warning will result in a five yard penalty. There are no more warnings for sideline infractions. The second sideline warning for a team will also result in a sideline warning, and any infractions after that will be a 15-yard penalty.

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