Proposed change in Illegal man downfield rule tabled

The NCAA playing rules oversight panel tabled a proposal Friday to change the illegal man downfield rule from 3 yards to 1 because it did not get enough feedback from head coaches.

The football rules committee proposed last month to shorten the distance offensive linemen can move forward from the line of scrimmage before a pass is thrown to make it easier for officials to spot violations.

The proposed change drew complaints from offensive coaches who have become adept at deceiving defenses by using run blocking on plays that give quarterbacks the option to pass or run.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze were among a group of coaches who asked rules committee chairman Troy Calhoun to table the proposal.

Defensive coaches have been frustrated by the lack of illegal man down field penalties on so-called packaged plays.

''Obviously, I was in favor of the (proposed) rule,'' Fresno State defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. ''I feel like we might have been able to gain a little back there.''

Linebackers and secondary players often key on offensive linemen to determine whether the offense will run or pass. When linemen start moving down the field, defenders are generally taught to read run. Now, Toth said, defensive coaches are trying to come up with new ways to coach defenders to decipher run or pass.

''You have to be willing as a defensive coordinator to let your players know that it's not going to look the way you want it to,'' Toth said.

If linemen were forced to stay closer to the line of scrimmage, quarterbacks would have less time to decide whether to run or pass and defensive players could react more swiftly to those decisions.

The NCAA said in a news release that panel members felt more discussion about the rule was needed, because of a lack of participation by head coaches.

The NCAA said the panel was concerned about the lack of participation in the rules process by head coaches. While 57 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches supported the proposed change in the initial survey, only 65 FBS head coaches participated in the survey. The proposal was supported by 54 by Also, only 46 FBS head coaches offered feedback about the proposal during the two-week comment period.

The current rule of 3 yards will stay in effect for the 2015 season and will be a point of emphasis for coaches and officials, the NCAA said.

Other proposals that were passed and will go into effect next season include:

- An eight-person officiating system will be allowed if a conference or school chooses. A center judge was used experimentally in several conferences during the past two seasons.

- A 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul will be called on players who push or pull opponents off piles - for example, after fumbles.

- Instant replay reviews will be allowed to see if a kicking team player blocked the receiving team before the ball traveled 10 yards on onside-kick plays.

- Non-standard/overbuilt facemasks will be prohibited.

---

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.