This afternoon the NCAA released their long-awaited rules updates for the 2016 season in regards to things like targeting and the use of electronic devices. Here are the updates:
1) Replay Officials Can Get Involved With Targeting Regardless of Call on Field.
Ok, so now we can stop play if a replay official thinks a targeting call may have been missed. I'm strangely not that upset at allowing the replay booth to step in more for this one. Auburn fans won't know about it, but there was a play in the GoDaddy Bowl this year where a targeting call was CLEARLY missed by the officials on the field.* It ultimately had no impact on the game, but it was a still an awful missed call.
The officials are going to err on the side of caution more often than not, so I don't see this being something that will stop play as often as some detractors may think.
Another note to this is that replay officials will be required to review all aspects of targeting fouls in order to determine if a player is correctly disqualified. These are things like launching and forcible contact to the head. I have to wonder if Blake Countess' hit in the Jacksonville State game may have been overturned if all aspects of the play were reviewed. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.
*UPDATE: Here's the play in question. Watch through the second replay and marvel at how this wasn't called on the field when so many other questionable calls are made.
2) Electronic Devices Will Be Allowed in Press Box and Locker rooms.
Not on the field, though, which is one of the things Gus Malzahn really wanted. The NFL is allowed to use tablets on the field, and that level of technology is what Gus Malzahn really wanted. It would greatly enhance the ability to coach players on the field during the game. It will still help coaches in the booth and during half-time, but it will be less effective in real-time in terms of relaying the information to the players.
This is really just a half-measure. I have to wonder why the NCAA didn't go ahead and approve full usage of electronic devices. If I had to guess, I'd bet it comes down to the cost to smaller schools. That's the position the SEC's director of officiating took in this piece of actual good journalism from AL.com (since, you know, it didn't have an opportunity for them to be snarky towards Auburn in particular).
3) Cut Blocks Outside the Tackle Box Are Prohibited
Wasn't this already a rule? I seem to recall it being called on Auburn in a very important part of a game this season. I want to say the Arkansas game, actually, and it negated a first down. I could be completely mistaken on that, though. The exact wording of the rule makes it seem to specify leaving the tackle box and then blocking back towards the tackle box is prohibited. Perhaps this is the clarification and is designed to prevent them from coming back towards the tackle box to cut block?
4) "Defenseless Player" Tag Extended To Any Ball Carrier Sliding
So now any player carrying the ball who slides with his feet forward will be considered "defenseless." Again, I kinda thought this was a no-brainer and already in play, but I guess not. Everyone is familiar with this rule for quarterbacks, but now it applies to everyone.
I can see this causing some anguish when a player "gives himself up" late after a defensive player is already going low, a foul called, and - since there's no replay specified in this rule - a horrible penalty being enforced because we're protecting the ball carriers more than we are defensive players.
I don't see it being called much, though. I mean, really, how often do you see anyone but the quarterback slide feet first to end a play?
5) No Tripping
Another one that I thought was already in place. You can't deliberately trip a ball carrier with your leg.
6) Officials are instructed to stringently enforce the 3-yard limit regarding ineligible receivers downfield
They say this last year, too. Will it change anything? Doubt it.