ATLANTA—The media had a lunchtime discussion with Steve Shaw on Tuesday; and the SEC director of officials brought up three interesting points, regarding how things have evolved within the conference, citing a five-year pattern.
Back in 2013, there was a lot of soapboxing about 'pace of play' from the various SEC head coaches. Some favored a high-tempo spread attack, while others operated under a traditional ground-and-pound system.
As such, some of the coaches fretted over the systemic changes, surmising that constant substitutions and little time between huddles (if at all) would lead to more player injuries.
Five years later, there are no conclusive studies to reaffirm or even reject that notion. On the flip side, it hasn't been a source of contention with coaches in recent years.
Shaw's reasoning: Each program has assimilated to the enhanced tempo changes.
"The offense typically controls the pace of the game," says Shaw, who's been supervising the SEC officials since 2011 and has officiated two national-title games this century (2000, 2005). "But with substitutions, it now gives the defense the option to catch up.
"It used to be a cat-and-mouse game between an offensive coordinator and the opposing defensive coordinator ... but now, it's easier to (catch up)."
Here's something interesting: On gamedays, the on-site TV producers from ESPN, CBS, SEC Network, etc. and on-field officials meet roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes before every SEC kickoff.
While conversing, the two groups share information on potential points of interest, while forecasting trouble spots that may occur.
The officials even share their various preferences for certain camera angles.
But here's the most significant innovation, in terms of how it affects the officials.
The Instant Replay team gets real-time access to as many as six unique camera angles, regardless of whether these particular shots make it onto the TV broadcast.
As such, the review process has been substantially streamlined, with each determination seldom exceeding the expected timeline of 90-120 seconds.
Let's finish on a great quote. When asked if the NFL officials regularly confer with their college colleagues, Shaw countered with this gem involving the SEC coaches.
"Our coaches would not like the NFL" style of handling replays, said Shaw, referencing how NFL coaches pick and choose their sports for singular challenges during a game, whereas every play in SEC action gets subjected to some sort of review.
"Our coaches kind of like where we are. They wouldn't want to revert to a challenge system."
Per USATODAY Sports, here are four notable rules changes for 2018:
1) Blocking below the waist will not be permitted beyond five yards past the line of scrimmage. Case in point, tailbacks aren't allowed to dive at a defender's knee from the side.
2) Pads and pants must cover knees, and if a player is in violation, he must leave the field for one play. (Coaches have the option to burn a timeout, if they feel that player cannot afford to sit out for any duration.)
3) The rules committee put 40-second limits in place following touchdowns, free kick returns and fair catches. In the past, a 25-second clock began after the referee signaled the crew's readiness.
4) Possessions will automatically start at the 25-yard line, if a player executes a fair catch inside the 25 on a kickoff.