Caldwell: 10-Second Rule One of Desperation

Bret Bielema continues to take his agenda public, but he's not helping his case with his latest rant.

On Thursday, Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema continued his crusade against the Hurry Up/No Huddle offenses around the country. It's not a surprise to see the former Wisconsin coach running his mouth considering that's all he's done since he arrived in the SEC.

It started before he even coached his first game as he turned media days into a circus with his comments about safety being the main issue with teams that play fast in college football.

Last week he took things to another level when he was part of a group of coaches that pushed legislation to the NCAA that would make it a penalty to snap the football within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second clock except within the last two minutes of each half.

If this rule is really about safety then why are there exceptions to the rule. It's common sense that the last two minutes of each half would be when players are at their most vulnerable. Why then would you allow a team to run a two-minute offense at that time if player safety is all you are concerned about?

Joined in his crusade by coaches such as Nick Saban and Louisiana-Monroe Coach Todd Berry along with Troy Calhoun from the Air Force Academy, Bielema's gang has hidden behind the "injury" agenda since this whole debate started and has no shred of evidence to back up its claims. Interestingly enough ULM was 84th in offensive plays last season, Air Force 106th and Arkansas 118th. So much for equal representation.

Bielema took things to an absurd level when speaking to the White County Razorback Club Thursday night. Citing the recent death of Cal player Ted Agu while going through winter conditioning drills, Bielema overplayed his hand drastically in my opinion.

There is no question that Agu's death is a tragedy. A young man struck down in the prime of his life is always a sad moment and a tough one for friends, family, teammates and coaches to deal with. However, it's not the first time or the last time it's going to happen. Football is a physically exhausting game that requires constant strength and conditioning work to keep up. It's that way in 2014 and it has been that way for years, no matter what type of offense you run.

Bielema and company will try to maintain that this rule change would be all for player safety. After all Auburn and other fast-paced offenses are the only ones just churning up the field and never giving the defense a time to rest. That's what this is all about correct?

Last season Auburn ran 1,014 total plays in 14 games, an average of just over 72 plays per game. The time of possession for the Tigers was 30:22 for the year compared to 29:38 for its opponents. Those are impressive numbers, but lets take a look at some of the coaches now outraged about the speed of the game and the physical toll it is taking on defenses.

Two years ago at Wisconsin, Bielema's offense ran a total of 926 plays in 14 games, an average of 66 plays per game or just six less than Auburn's record-setting offense ran this season. In 2011 the Badgers were even more impressive, running 937 plays in 14 games, an average of 67 plays per game. The biggest news came in time of possession as Wisconsin kept the ball an average of five minutes more per game than the opposition over the course of two seasons.

Montee Ball ran the ball 27 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana in 2012, part of a 64-carry, 564-yard day for the Badgers' running game. That day Wisconsin held the ball for 39:27 compared to just 20:33 for the Hoosiers. That makes for a tired defense

As for Berry, his numbers at Louisiana-Monroe show a different mindset than the words coming out of his mouth these days when he joined forces with Saban and company just days before signing a contract to play Alabama in 2015 for what should be a huge sum of money for a middle of the road Sun Belt program.

With quarterback Kolton Browning running the show for the Warhawks in 2012, his team defeated Arkansas and almost took down Auburn on the way to an 8-5 record. In 13 games just two seasons ago, Berry's teams ran 989 total plays, an average of 76 plays per game.

For a coach who didn't have any problems running plays at a fast tempo just two seasons ago, Berry sure has changed his tune. He had this to say to CBSSports.com just days ago.

"We tried to balance the safety issue and making sure you can play the game fast. We looked at this and said, 'how many plays were actually snapped earlier than the 29 second mark? Do they have three or four a game?'

"If you're snapping it with 27-28 seconds remaining, you are super fast. But it's that 10 seconds we felt like that gives us what we thought for a tired D-lineman to get off the field. What you don't want is that tired defensive player who is a liability in the game and you can't get him off the field. He's gonna get injured. That's what's driving this thing."

Injuries aren't driving this agenda, it's all about defensive adjustments. For years coaches on that side of the ball have been able to dictate what the offense does by changing defenses and disguising coverages at the last minute. One of the best at that was Saban. Now that advantage is gone.

Defenses are now forced to be more versatile with players having to play multiple roles on a defense depending on what the offense does, and some coaches don't like that.

Coaches can talk about problems substituting or players getting tired, but there is a simple answer to the problem and that is to stop a team from getting a first down. If a team only runs three plays they'll be punting and the hurry up will have worked in your favor.

A first down means extra plays for your defense, but it also means extra plays for the offensive guys as well. If they substitute then the defense is allowed ample time to substitute before the ball is snapped, making this rule even more absurd when you think about it.

In the end this should be a proposal that gets laughed out of the room when the time comes to be voted on, but make no mistake about it there are a lot of frustrated coaches trying to figure out how to slow the offensive innovators in college football right now. Why not just admit that instead of hiding behind the injury argument? It just makes you look bad.

See the committee gave away their true agenda when it admitted rarely seeing teams snap the ball inside the first 10 seconds. So why is a rule change needed then?

It's not about the speed or tempo all the time for offenses such as Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and others, but often it's about the threat of snapping the ball early. Take that away and defenses hold the upper hand once again, which is what this is all about.


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