Why do offensive players matter more to NCAA?

THE RULES ALLOW it. And the rules should be ashamed of themselves. You can block below the waist (read: the knees) on the offensive line as long as the defensive player is not otherwise engaged and you don’t come too far from the side of the player. It's a very effective technique that most o-line coaches teach. It's also a recipe for …

… a season ending injury.

That’s what happened to Beaver d-lineman Noke Tago against USC.

And it’s also why, following the USC game, you won’t see OSU starter Jalen Grimble for an estimated 3-4 weeks.

I’ve talked to many offensive coaches over the years, (and this week), and they’re adamantly opposed to anything that would do away with the cut block. Their offense would be at a disadvantage without it. There are better athletes on the d-line than on the o-line.

But the injury concern easily trumps any of that. You’re talking about an increasing probability each and every year, as o-linemen get bigger, stronger and more athletic, of more and more devastating knee injuries.

But hey, if that’s not enough, if players getting their knees torn up isn’t enough on its own to change minds, fine -- let’s take a look at it from a competition standpoint.

Why would you give one side, the offense, such a devastating tool … and leave the other, the defense, without? Wouldn't a more effective way to tell who is better, who wins and loses, to be to have the two linemen standing up and battling each other on equal footing? Your best vs. My best. Isn't that what football is all about?

In Tago’s case, he was lined up outside of the guard’s shoulder but the center pulled down the line from a good six feet away and dove at his knee at what looks like about a 45 degree angle. Straight on? No. But apparently oh well, close enough. Legal play. Tago barely had time to try and react before the USC center’s helmet made direct contact with his knee. Something had to give. In Tago’s case, it was his knee and his season.

Every d-line and linebacker coach works on defeating cut blocks with their players. But all they can do is try. Regardless of what’s thrown its way, the cut block by its very nature is going to be effective. And the ligaments will continue to snap like pieces of dry firewood.

The way most offensive coaches teach the cut block, you try to make contact with the thigh pads and roll. This keeps the defensive tackle backpedaling. But there's nothing in the rules to stop an o-lineman from going lower than the thigh pad, from making their first contact with the knee or ankle.

They can go ahead and dive as low as they want.

It's an entirely preventable injury. But the NCAA and CFB coaching fraternity continues to be a-okay with it. The rules also say it’s just fine for an offensive ballcarrier to put his hand on a defensive players’ facemask. As long as he doesn’t twist and pull, that’s allowed by the rules. (And if he does twist and pull, oh well, that’s hard for the refs to catch at full speed). A defensive player? He can’t touch an offensive player’s facemask.

A couple seasons ago, when college football began making it a point of emphasis to flag helmet-to-helmet contact by defensive players, something very interesting began to take place. Running backs at the end of runs started launching themselves head first into the defender’s helmet at the point of contact. Because they weren’t flagging that, only if a defender made helmet-to-helmet contact.

Meanwhile, the cut block takes away a defensive linemen's aggressiveness and natural ability. If you have someone diving at your knees all game, you're going to be worried mostly about trying to keep yourself from getting seriously injured than you are about playing the game of football. It's that simple.

My guess is the cut block will probably go away or the rule will be largely modified in 2-4 years because of the current climate. There’s (finally) more and more concern over head injuries these days. That will eventually trickle down to an emphasis on ACL-type season- and career-ending injury prevention and the cut-block.

But how many players will lose games and seasons before that happens? And how does that help Tago, who just lost his sophomore campaign and Grimble, who just lost four games of his junior year?

And so I ask again, why do the powers-that-be care more about an offensive player’s health than a defensive player’s wellbeing? Because that’s exactly how the rules are written, and enforced.

The rules committee appears far more interested in spending time and effort each year on when the clock should start and stop. Because that's oh so much more important than college football players having their ACL’s torn up.


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