HOOVER Ala. — SEC director of officials Steve Shaw was first up on Day 2 of SEC Football Media Days and there was much to discuss with regard to rule changes in 2012.
First and foremost is the change on kickoffs. For safety reasons, the placement of the ball has been moved up from the 30- to the 35-yard line. Shaw said the move was made in order to induce “more touchbacks, less collisions.”
However, touchbacks have also been moved up for the offensive team from the 20- to the 25-yard line. So defensive-minded coaches aren’t necessarily inclined to readily give up those five yards.
Florida coach Will Muschamp, for instance, said the Gators are discussing alternatives.
“We have talked about some sky kick situations,” Muschamp said. “We’re looking at directional kicking the ball with height and see if we can pin them back a little further.”
They’ve also instituted a rule that protects the receiver when the kicking team attempts an onsides kick with a high one-hopper. In the past, the kicking team could strike the receiver before he touched the ball. Now that receiver is protected from being hit until he has had a chance to field the ball.
Other changes, mainly designed for player safety, include:
•It’s now a 15-yard foul for a defender to attempt to leap over backfield punt protectors.
•Kick-catch interference, also known as the “halo rule,” has been reintroduced as a “modified halo.” Now it’s going to be a one-yard halo, or shoulder width.
•Helmets popping off will be strictly enforced. If not caused by foul, the player will have to sit out the next play. So players “better buckle that thing up,” Shaw said.
•Blocking below the waist is going to be another point of emphasis.
And finally, “coaches’ sideline behavior” will be closely monitored.
“We have great coaches in this league and we don’t think there will be anything here for us,” Shaw said. “But I think nationally we’ve all agreed that anytime the coaches’ behavior on the sideline is demeaning to the game we have to deal with it. And we will.”
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