No longer must an eligible receiver have a reasonable opportunity to catch the ball for a forward pass in his area to not be intentional grounding. As long as an eligible receiver is in the area of the pass, intentional grounding will not be called.
Example: Quarterback drops straight back into the pocket, under a heavy rush, and is unable to find an open receiver. Not moving laterally, staying in the pocket, he throws the ball at the feet of an eligible receiver who is (a) looking to catch the ball, or (b) looking downfield to block.
Ruling: Both are legal passes, even though neither receiver had a reasonable opportunity to catch the pass. That is no longer a requirement.
Blocking Out of Bounds:
Basically the game should be played between the lines on the field of play. Tackling out of bounds is a foul. Now blocking out of bounds is also a foul. While it may happen that a block initiated in bounds might continue as the players cross the sideline, no player may go out of bounds to block an opponent. It is now illegal for any player to initiate a block against an opponent who is out of bounds. The spot of the foul is where the blocker crosses the sideline in going out of bounds. The penalty is 15 yards.
Previously, only the snapper was allowed to lock legs with the adjacent guards. The remaining linemen must have had both feet outside the outside foot the adjacent lineman. The committee found no apparent unfair advantage or increased injury risk with all linemen locking legs, so now it is no longer illegal for offensive players on the line of scrimmage to lock legs.
Defensive Line Formation on Place Kicks:
It is now illegal for three defensive players to line up shoulder-to-shoulder and move forward against a single offensive player during a place kick play (field goal or try). The intent of the rule is to prevent defensive linemen from triple-team action against a single offensive lineman who is in a kick-blocking situation. Penalty - Five yards from the previous spot.
Goal Line Plane Extension changed.
Now the Goal line plane runs between the pylons, and includes the entire pylon. The plane no longer exists beyond the pylons except in two specific cases: (a) When a ball carrier touches the pylon, and (b) when the ball carrier touches the ground in the end zone.
Examples: Play #1: The ball carrier dives for the corner of the end zone, leaping at the one yard line. The ball - in his possession: (a) touches the pylon; (b) goes over the top of the pylon; or (c) crosses the goal line inside the pylon. The player then first touches the ground three yards beyond the goal line out of bounds. Ruling: Touchdown in all three instances. The ball broke the plane of the goal line in the player's possession.
Play #2: The player heads for the right pylon of the goal line. At the two yard line he dives or is blocked into the air by an opponent. The ball – in his right hand – crosses the sideline at the one yd/line and passes outside the pylon. Then the runner while air born (a) touches the pylon with his foot or left hand; or (b) first touches the ground three yards beyond the goal line out of bounds. Ruling: In (a), Touchdown, since the plane is extended because the player touched the pylon. In (b), the plane is NOT extended, because the player did not touch the pylon or the ground in the end zone. The ball is out of bounds at the one yd/line. No Touchdown.
Play #3: The ball carrier heads for the right pylon of the goal line. The ball in his right hand crosses the extension of the goal line outside (to the right of) the pylon. The runner is (a) deemed to have stepped on the goal line; or (b) deemed to have stepped on the side line inches from the goal line. Ruling: Touchdown in (a) since the plane is extended by touching the ground in the end zone. In (b) there is no touchdown because the player did not touch the pylon nor did he touch the ground in the end zone. The goal line is NOT extended. The ball is ruled out of bounds at the point of crossing the side line.
Play #4: The ball carrier heads for the right pylon of the goal line with the ball in his right hand. His foot hits the pylon just before the ball (a) crosses the pylon; or (b) crosses the extension of the goal line outside the pylon. Ruling: (a) and (b) No touchdown in either case. Because the pylon is out of bounds, the ball is dead once the runner's foot hits the pylon. Thus the ball is dead in both cases before it crosses the goal line or the side line.
Play #5: The ball carrier is hit and his forward progress is stopped inbounds near the goal line at the side line to his right. When he is stopped, the ball is in his right hand extended beyond the goal line (a) inside the pylon; or (b) outside the pylon. Ruling: In (a) the ball extended inside the pylon across the goal line creates a touchdown and the ball is dead at that point. In (b) no part of his body touched the pylon or the ground in the end zone. In this case the plane is NOT extended for a touchdown. The ball is dead short of the goal line.
This three-part discussion of the rule changes for NCAA football 2011-2012 is intended for informational review only. It is written for the purpose of giving the reader some insight when while watching a college game, one of these rule changes arises. It is not meant to be comprehensive or inclusive of every possible scenario. I will be happy to discuss any rule question submitted to the football forum. Thank you Ronald J. North, M.D.