We have a new rule in the conference that was discussed Wednesday morning at SEC Media Days: a “strike zone” for defenders when tackling players in passing positions. It’s beginning to seem like there’s a new rule for a different conference in college football every year.
In short, the “strike zone,” explained by SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw at Day 3 of SEC Media Days, is the area above the knees and below the neck, and that is the area where defenders will be asked to tackle offensive players in passing positions, according to a report on ESPN. If players violate this targeting rule, they will be penalized.
This is another attempt to protect players, specifically quarterbacks, from serious injuries.
For the most part, the rule changes in all of football to protect quarterbacks over the past few years have been pretty good because in the past, they might have been the most vulnerable players on the field. Not only were defenders itching to get a lick on them, but they’re always being chased from a blind spot and have to rely on other guys to keep them protected.
That being said, this rule goes way too far. Now, the conference known for defense is going out of its way to protect offenses? I wonder how Nick Saban will take that, seeing as how he sought a rule change revolved around the no-huddle offense earlier in the year that favors defenses in the name of “protecting players.”
Defensive players, linemen especially, are taught to do whatever they can to try to reach the quarterback if they’re near a sack. Sure, the helmet, facemask, and horse-collar tackles should be avoided, but now the knees?
Defensive linemen get sacks often by going low and grabbing a quarterback’s legs. Is that going to be a penalty now? How many great sacks have we seen when a defensive linemen reached out and was able to take a quarterback down? With this “strike zone,” many of those will be cut out this year.
Now, if you’re a defensive end, and to a lesser degree a linebacker or a defensive tackle, you may not want to commit to an SEC school if other conferences don’t have this rule. It limits their abilities to rack up sacks, which is a major stat for them to build their national profile. How do you sell this to a kid at one of those positions? The SEC, which is usually all business, might have messed up on this one while trying to think about player safety.
We understand players need to be protected, and we understand that with such a violent sport, assuring the health of players is crucial, especially in college when they’re looking at an NFL career. Nobody wants to see a potential NFL superstar quarterback hurt, and many of the rules protecting them are great. But we also must accept that things happen.
Players get hurt all the time, and when football officials can prevent those injuries without compromising a crucial aspect of the game, I’m all for it. I’ll even be for a compromise if it’s something that can cause serious injury. But this won’t do too much to protect quarterbacks, and the officials just took out a very exciting part of the game.