The 2014 SEC Media Days continued today with Steve Shaw, the SEC head of officials, taking the podium. Shaw addressed the media about issues from last seasons and the changes made for the upcoming season.
A big controversy last year was targeting calls. Last season, Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson was ejected and penalized 15 yards for targeting in the 4th quarter against Vanderbilt. After reviewing the play, the call and ejection was overturned, as the tackle was a clean, textbook, shoulder-to-chest hit. But, the 15-yard penalty stood and the Commodores went on to score on that drive rather than turning the ball over on fourth-and-four. After receiving numerous criticism from players, coaches, fans, and media outlets, the SEC officials made some crucial changes. Shaw reiterated how the targeting rule is to help protect the safety of the players and how the league will continue to penalize 15 yards. However, unlike last season, if the targeting call is overturned, the 15-yard penalty will also be waved off.
Another player protection rule new this season is that you cannot hit a quarterback below the knees. No defensive player can hit a quarterback outside of the “strike zone,” which is defined below the neck to above the knees. This rule is applicable both inside and outside of the pocket to better prevent injuries.
“This is a player safety issue,” Shaw said. “This rule change, I know, will create the player behavior change.”
Another addition to the 2014 rulebook is reviewable plays. Shaw addressed three different instant replay changes that are now reviewable starting this season:
- “Location of the passer when he is obviously in the field of play and a ruling of intentional grounding would result in a safety by penalty”
- “Catch or recovery of a loose ball in the field of play or an end zone”
- “A backward pass out of bounds”
Shaw and his officiating crew hope that the new rules intact will make the game fair as possible while protecting the athletes.