Steve Shaw, the league’s director of officials, related those changes Tuesday at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
“You may look at the rule changes and think, ‘This is a pretty light year in rule changes,’ and it is, but there are a couple things that are transformational,” Shaw said.
One of the biggest changes is that there will now be a permanent eighth official on the field in all games after the league experimented with it and just one game per week last season.
The eighth official lines up in the offensive backfield opposite of the referee.
“We’re putting it in there to manage the game properly,” Shaw said. “That’s what it will all be about. Tempo will be the same. We’re not going to change. But we’ll be able to manage the whole process much better. I think this will be something that will really help.”
Last year’s eight-man crew didn’t call more penalties than most of the seven-man crews as it landed fifth in number of calls among nine groups of officials.
SEC rule changes for 2015. pic.twitter.com/44P3YHcYgR— Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis) July 14, 2015
“We tracked it last year,” Shaw said.“Of our nine crews, the one crew that worked eight all season long fit exactly in the middle. So there were four crews that had more penalties per game. There were four crews that had less penalties per game.”
Another big addition for the SEC will be having a independent conference-appointed medical observer at each game.
That medical observer will be in the replay booth and look mainly head and neck injuries.
He will able to notify the replay official, who will immediately get word to the on-field officials and they will get the player out and make sure he is cleared before returning.
“I want you to frame it with this: this is a backup,” Shaw said. “So really in the line of defense, if you will, to player safety, it's really the fourth backup. There may be others, but primarily the player and his teammates, they have responsibility to identify.”
Shaw also noted that you can no longer pull or push an opponent off of a pile this season or it will be an automatic unsportsmanlike penalty.
The officials will also be watching closer at illegal blocking on onside kicks and it also will become a reviewable play.
"The rules committee felt that it was such an impactful play, that we'll kind of cross over on this one specific circumstance where we're going to evaluate judgment calls, kind of like we do now with targeting," Shaw said.
Shaw noted that targeting rules were down 10.5 percent in the SEC last season.
There will be no more overbuilt facemasks allowed in the league.
"There were some good medical research around it," Shaw said. “(It) can jeopardize the structural integrity of the helmet" and "tends to pull your head forward, and the theme we teach players is heads-up tackling."