A Look At Some Rule Changes

Among some of the changes for 2013 include interpretations for illegal crack backs, a 10-second run-off for injuries, a three-second rule for spiking the ball, and the on-going issue of helmet-to-helmet hits.

ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads held an information session on Monday at the ACC Football Kickoff.

His primary objective was to review some rules, as well as explain some rule changes, or how they will be interpreted this year.

With the addition of Pitt and Syracuse this year, 21 new officials have been hired by the ACC. These new officials have come from the Big East, Big Ten, the MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA. There were also officials hired from a developmental staff--those who have had at least five years of experience officiating high school games and five years of officiating smaller colleges.

Rhoads said he also wanted to hire new officials with geographical ties to the new teams; making hires of officials from Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Kentucky--laying the ground work for when Notre Dame and Louisville eventually join the conference.

* One of the rule changes, was changing some of the verbage around the crack back; hopefully eliminating the crack back (where an offensive player in motion camps,back to original position to block.

To eliminate that, there is a separation of restricted players, and unrestricted players. Unrestricted players would be any players on the line of scrimmage, inside the tackle box. The rule change now states the only way you can block below the waste, if if you block with your body in a '10 o'clock-2 o'clock' position, facing the defender. The most likely scenario for this rule would be a pulling offensive lineman. As long as that player who is pulling, demonstrates the 10-2 position with his hands, facing the defender, he can still block below the waste.

Also, at the snap of the ball, you cannot block below the waste. After one to two seconds--judgmental on the officials call--the player can block below the waste.

* In terms of injuries late in a half, or late in a game, a 10-second runoff has been instituted. The runoff is only enforced with under a minute to play in either the first half, or at the end of a game.

The opposing team has the option to decline the 10-second runoff. Lets say an offensive player gets injured on a third down stop with under a minute to play, and the defense set to get the ball back. The defense, obviously, would not want 10 seconds taken away. Therefore, they have the option to decline. Or, if an offensive player gets injured, his team moving the ball, and there's eight seconds left. The game is now over.

The offending team does have the option of calling a timeout, which nullifies the 10-second runoff.

Refer to the closing minutes of the 2012 Chic-fil-A bowl, as a good reference point:

* The helmet rule is also a hot topic. Anytime a player's helmet comes off, he is required to come off the field for one play. This year, a player still has to leave the field. However, the offending team can call timeout, allowing the player to come right back in, instead of sitting out one play.

* Spiking the ball. In order to spike the ball, there must be at last three seconds on the clock. If it's less than three seconds, you must run a play. Not all ACC scoreboards have tenths of a second on their scoreboard, which could make it interesting if it comes to that. This is a reviewable play, and again, enforced at the end of a half or end of a game.

* The rule that drew the most discussion, was the interpretation of a player leading with his head.

While the NFL has now adopted a rule where offensive players will be penalized for leading with their head, or hitting with the crown of their helmet, the rule will still only be enforced on defensive players.

Take this hit by Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State, against a Duke player last year.

The only difference this year, is in how Joyner would be penalized. In this case, since Joyner led with the crown of his helmet and left the ground, Florida State would be penalized 15 yards and Joyner would be ejected.

Joyner acknowledged, when asked about rule changes this year, that as a physical player, he will adjust his game to fit those rules.

"I think you gotta abide by the rule," Joyner said. "I'm a physical guy, so there's other ways to be physical. I'm going to be physical in between the rules. I'll find another way to be physical. I'll find another way to hit somebody hard."

If the play, let's say this play with Joyner for example, is reviewed and there is conclusive evidence that Joyner did not lead with his head or leave the ground, he can stay in the game. However, the 15-yard penalty stays.

The biggest concern is this area, is better defining what a defenseless player is in this case. A defenseless player, by rule is any player in the act of passing, a receiver attempting to catch pass prior to becoming a runner, a kicker in act of kicking, returners set to return a kick or punt returners, a player on the ground, a player on the bench. New defined defenseless players for this year include any player who receives a blindside block, a ball carrier in grasp (being held up by multiple defenders), and a quarterback anytime after change possession (after an interception or fumble).

The biggest things that officials will be aiming for, Rhoads said, will be watching the crown of the head of the defensive player, if the player is aiming for above the shoulders, along with the definitions of defenseless players.

While these are new interpretations of rules, or definitions, Rhoads hopes the review of these rules will help cut down on penalties, and in some cases, injuries. He cited a couple of ways in past years, how the changing in verbage has cut down. For example, fighting was once a big problem. In 800 FBS games last year, there were a total of two fights. In the same number of games, a total of 27 clips were called.

Another interesting fact Rhoads gave, was about review time. Last year, in the ACC, one in every five plays were overturned. The average time of a replay last year was 1:08. The longest review was roughly four minutes. The shortest ones were 12-15 seconds.

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