New NCAA rule protects QB, but not d-linemen

THE NCAA WANTS you to know they care about Connor Halliday's knees and ankles. What they don't tell you is they really don't give a dman about the knees and ankles of d-linemen Toni Pole, Xavier Cooper and Destiny Vaeao.

That's because an offensive lineman can still lunge straight at a defensive lineman's knees, and ankles, at the snap.

They can barrel roll straight into him. They can take out a d-lineman down low to their heart's content and without penalty.


The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on Wednesday made it against the rules in 2014 to roll or lunge into the quarterbacks' legs when he's in a throwing motion.

From the NCAA release: The rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground. In that situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit him forcibly at or below the knee. The defensive player also may not initiate a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee area or below.

It's a good rule – any rule that promotes player safety is a good rule. But here's my question: Why does the health of the quarterback matter more to the NCAA than that of a defensive lineman?

CUT BLOCKING IS a very effective technique many o-line coaches are teaching all across the country this spring. The way most coaches instruct their o-linemen is 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, and this is what you see happen so often in games.

What you also see are more ACL tears and other assorted injuries.

It's an entirely preventable injury. But there's nothing in the rules, nothing, to stop an o-lineman from making their first north-south contact with that knee or ankle. By rule, they can go ahead and dive as low as they want.

THE REALITY IS that a 48-45 game is more exciting and draws more viewers, and therefore dollars, than does a 10-7 game. With the speed of today's defenses, proponents of the cut block say it is a necessary tool on the back side -- otherwise many offensive plays simply won't work. The cut block, they say, is integral to the zone-blocking schemes that have become so increasingly popular and led to such high-scoring games.

I have talked with college coaches and knowledgeable fans who are adamant in their support of the cut block. They have presented me with varied, impassioned arguments strongly in favor of it.

I reject them all.

Wouldn't a more effective way to tell who is better - who wins and loses -- be to have the two linemen standing and battling each other on equal footing? Your Best vs. My Best. Isn't that what football is all about?

If you have someone diving at your knees all game it doesn't matter who you are or how tough you are, you're going to be concerned mostly about preventing serious long-term injury to your knees and ankles than you are about playing the game of football. With the cut block, a player's season or even career can be over in an instant. Legally.

But the NCAA is unwilling to do away with OL/DL cut blocking. They won't even make illegal the contact on a d-lineman that occurs at or below the knee from a straight-on approach by an o-lineman.

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.

Meanwhile, the NCAA's 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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