Highlighting the procedural changes is implementation of high definition (HD) for instant replay use. Previously, only standard definition had been available. The change should allow a quicker review as well as better results. Rhoads noted that last year there were 200 stoppages in play for review. These reviews lasted an average of 1:15. 38 of the 200 replay reviews resulted in a reversal of the on-field call.
Clarifying and narrowing the crackback rules seems to be a point of emphasis this year. A crackback is an illegal block where a player outside of 7 yards of the ball or in the backfield blocks towards the ball and below the waist within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Offensive linemen (and traditional tight ends), by definition, cannot be guilty of a crackback as they are lined up within 7 yards of the ball. Wide receivers and slotbacks in the backfield are the target of enforcement of this rule. The intent of the clarification is to tighten the ability of the WR/SB to not allow them to take any kind of angle toward the defender they are blocking. The rules require that the blockers are required to be perpendicular to the line of scrimmage when they block the defender. As demonstration of the call, Rhoads showed film clips of 2 missed crackback calls – which interestingly enough were both Georgia Tech blockers (A-backs). He showed a third video of a called crackback which turned out to be incorrect as well since the blocker had properly squared up to the defender prior to contact being made.
The wedge block rule change is new to 2010. The rule applies to kickoff return teams. Traditionally, teams have formed a wedge of 3-6 players standing shoulder to shoulder in a small area. The rule change disallows the use of a wedge. Specifically, no more than 2 players can stand shoulder to shoulder to form a wedge. It should be noted that this rule only applies to players standing shoulder to shoulder. Having 3 or more players within a small area is fine as long as they are not shoulder to shoulder.
Another topic near and dear to Georgia Tech fans is the chop block. Commission Rhoads spent a good amount of time covering this as well. A chop block is defined as a high block by one player and a low block by a second player. Of particular interest was the commissioner spelling out what was NOT a chop block. Specifically, incidental contact with a defender by a blocker on his way to block another defender is not part of a chop block (ie the center and defensive tackle brush against each other while the center attempts to go block a linebacker while the guard hits the defensive tackle low). Neither is contact with a defender when initiated by the defender (ie the defensive tackle reaches out and puts his arms out to stop the center as the center is attempting to go block a linebacker while the guard hits the defensive tackle low). As is the case, intent and judgment as to what incidental contact is will be the key.
2011 will see the introduction of a rules change with regard to unsportsmanlike conduct. Specifically, this applies to scoring plays where the scoring player violates the rules around unsportsmanlike conduct. The rules have not changed concerning what is or is not unsportsmanlike conduct. However, the application of the penalty will. If the foul occurs prior to the score, then the penalty will be enforced from the spot of the foul and the scoring play will be nullified. Previously, the penalty was applied following the play – typically on the kickoff.