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SEC Director of Officials discusses crackdown on blindside blocks, targeting

The NCAA is enforcing stricter penalties on targeting penalties and blindside blocks. Also, a new overtime rule is going into effect.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Penn State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA is continuing to crackdown on plays that they deem unsafe for the game of football.

Steve Shaw, the SEC Director of Officials, took the stage Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, and detailed some of the NCAA’s major rules changes to targeting and blindside blocks that will go into effect during the 2019 season and are expected to decrease the number of head and neck injuries as a result.

The NCAA and NFL have both implemented stiffer penalties for players regarding targeting and blindside blocks.

The newest of the bunch in college this season will be “confirming” a targeting penalty to remove any ambiguity concerning the play.

Previously, officials could confirm the call, in which instance the player would be ejected; they could say that the call on the field stands; or, they could overturn the call, resulting in a waiving of the 15-yard penalty and ejection.

This new rule change removes “the call stands” option for officials, which means a targeting penalty must be “confirmed” in order to eject a player from the game.

By definition, targeting means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Launching, a crouch with upward thrust and leading with the helmet are all indicators “95 plus percent of the time”, according to Shaw.

On another note, blindside blocks are now illegal. A blindside block is defined as an open field block against an opponent that is initiated from outside the opponent’s field of vision, or otherwise in such a manner that the opponent cannot reasonably defend himself against the block. An exception is when the runner or receiver is in the act of attempting to make a catch.

No player shall deliver a blindside block by attacking an opponent with forcible contact. This results in a personal foul and a 15-yard penalty. In addition, if this action meets all the elements of targeting, the call can be deemed a blindside block with targeting, which would result in an ejection from the game.

The NCAA had already approved stricter penalties for targeting earlier this year. While players already face a half-game suspension following a targeting ejection, now, three in one season will result in a full-game suspension.

Finally, Shaw discussed the NCAA’s new overtime rules, which went into effect due to the LSU Tigers and Texas A&M Aggies playing in a wild, seven-OT game last season.

“If a game reaches a fifth overtime, teams will run alternating two-point plays, instead of starting another drive at the opponent’s 25-yard line,” the NCAA announced during the spring. “This rules change was made to limit the number of plays from scrimmage and to bring the game to a conclusion. Additionally, there will be a two-minute rest period after the second and fourth overtimes. The rules for the first four overtimes remain unchanged.”

Not many games will go to five overtimes, but if you watched that LSU-Texas A&M game last year, it was awesome. The rule change is probably necessary for player safety and time concerns, but takes away a bit of fun from the game.

As for the targeting and blindside block rule changes, they are also necessary for player safety. However, it’s part of the game of football. I hate to see the NCAA and NFL taking away natural elements of the game, but I also understand why it has to happen.

Some will say football is becoming “soft,” but I wouldn’t go that far. The changes won’t dramatically change the game, but it still won’t be the same moving forward. As a former college football player, concussions are real and they can be dangerous, if not life-altering.

Moreover, these are some new rule changes to keep in mind when watching next season. Hopefully, these rules don’t affect the Kentucky Wildcats, but if they do, don’t get frustrated. Just remember that it’s all in the name of keeping these guys safe.