Should leaping be banned in college football too? Cougs weigh in

PULLMAN – The NFL has eliminated the “leaping” special teams defense on a field goal or extra point attempt, and a similar rule in college football is likely coming soon. But some Cougars aren’t fans of changing things up.

Junior defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa (6-2, 255) would rather see guys jumping over the line on field goals and extra points -- not only as a defensive player, but also as a fan.

“I think you should be able to do it. There’s no reason why you can’t, if you’re not touching the dude. It makes the game more interesting, seeing people jump over the snapper, cause you don’t really see [many] field goal blocks. And to see that once in every while gets the fan base going," said Mata'afa.

Both the NFL and NCAA previously outlawed leaps in which a leaper who didn’t line up on the line of scrimmage jumps and lands on another player. But the new NFL rule bans leaping whether the leaper lands on someone else or not, and the NCAA has a its own proposal working its way through the system.  Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was not pleased with the recent NFL change.

For WSU special teams coach Eric Mele, how he feels about the rule is mostly matter of personnel.

“I feel good about that. If we had a guy that could (execute the leaping FG block attempt) then I would say, ‘I feel bad about it,’” quipped Mele, before commenting that the rule change might have less of an effect than anticipated.  “You can vary the snap count anyway, so I’m not sure how much it’s really gonna affect anything at this point."

At the same time, now that the play has gotten national attention and can be seen on highlight plays on social media, Mele thinks that continuing to allow the leaping play “could turn field goals into a penalty fest, so it’s good that it’s gone.”  Mele conceded, however, that many rules changes tend to annoy him.

“This is a game where we like to run around and hit people and do those kinds of things,” said Mele, adding that, while “player safety is paramount,” he still likes to “bust referees’ chops a little bit.”

Mele said he's more concerned about the so-called “targeting” rule, which stipulates an automatic ejection for any player caught hitting another player in the helmet or neck area. He said the rule creates confusion for special teams players defending a kickoff or punt return — when defending players often have a 20-to-40 yard head start before making a hit.

“We’re running down there and I’m always preaching about not stopping and taking a shot . . . I don’t want guys breaking down and trying to take the safe tackle. I want them to knock somebody’s head off," said Mele.

Junior long snapper Kyle Celli (6-1, 240) was more circumspect regarding the leaping rule, but ultimately thinks the defensive move should be allowed.

“I never really thought about it, snapping-wise,” Celli told “It’s kinda nice if you don’t have worry about a guy going over the top. If you can do it, I think you should be able to do it. But it’s nice for the snapper to not have to worry about blocking that guy over the top. It’s hard snapping and then blocking.”

Mike Leach, however, was more sympathetic to the case for eliminating the rule.

“I do happen to think that the jumping over the line of scrimmage rule might be a good rule,” said Leach, citing potential injuries to the leaper and long snapper as justification for changing the rule.

He quickly amended his statement by noting that he thinks most new rules at any level of football are very likely unnecessary.

“Football for a long time has been obsessed with rules and tinkering with rules, which is a mistake,” said Leach. "We have all these rules committees and they get together and are determined to have an impact on things, so just football in general needs less rules. They need to figure out a way to have less rules rather than more rules.”

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