A new NCAA football proposal allowing defenses to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock has received significant backlash from coaches who prefer a quicker offensive pace.
Georgia's Mark Richt hasn't been as outspoken as some of his counterparts, but he isn't exactly rushing to usher in the change.
"All I know is that there is a group that meets about the rules and that every other year there are supposed to be no rule changes," Richt said Thursday afternoon. "The only way you can change a rule in an off year like this year is to say it has something to do with player safety.
"I personally don't think it's a health-issue deal, but if there is some evidence otherwise, it would be interesting to see it. I think this is somebody's assumption. I don't think there is any hard evidence on it."
Duke's David Cutcliffe, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, California's Sonny Dykes and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy have been among the coaches who have felt blindsided by the proposal, with Dykes claiming it is more about who wants to run college football. Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Beliema have led the belief that up-tempo offenses produce more injuries because defensive players don't have time to get set.
Richt, who was a guest Thursday on Chattanooga's "Press Row" show on ESPN 105.1, disputed that notion.
"If you can train offensive linemen and offensive players to run six plays in a row, then you ought to be able to train defensive players," he said. "I think you should be able to go as fast as you want within the rules."
The defensive substitution proposal was attached to one changing an aspect of the targeting rule that was introduced last season. The substitution proposal, which would start with the upcoming season, would contain a 5-yard penalty for offenses that snap the ball before 29 seconds on the play clock.
The NCAA Football Rules Committee announced the two proposals Feb. 12, and they must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet March 6.
"My guess is that it won't pass, but I just don't know how many people are consistently snapping the ball under 10 seconds anyway," Richt said. "If you're snapping the ball with 30 seconds left on the 40-second clock -- even if you're snapping it at 29 seconds, you're still going pretty darn fast. I don't think it will be a huge deal if it does change, but I doubt very seriously it changes this quickly."
Richt started quickening the tempo as Florida State's offensive coordinator in the early 1990s, adding that the Seminoles were operating at a "breakneck pace" before he took the job in Athens. He initially tried to speed up the Bulldogs with a no-huddle offense led by quarterback David Greene.
The Bulldogs averaged 73.1 plays a game in 2003, but when Richt met with then SEC coordinator of officials Bobby Gaston at the 2004 SEC spring meetings and asked officials to spot the ball more quickly, his request was denied. Gaston reasoned that at least 12 seconds had to elapse for the officials to be set.
Georgia dipped to 68.6 plays a game in 2004, but the Bulldogs have been just under 73 a game two of the past three seasons.
"Before I got to the SEC, there wasn't even a rule on if we subbed, the defense had the right to sub as well," Richt said. "There were no rules on that, so we were really wearing some people out with that."
Odds and ends
When asked about dismissed safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, Richt would only say that he wished him well. ... Former Penn State offensive lineman Gus Felder was named Thursday as the assistant director of strength and conditioning. ... Richt on naming running backs coach Bryan McClendon as recruiting coordinator: "He's a great communicator and does a beautiful job of getting to know everybody." ... Though he named tight ends coach John Lilly and new inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler as the primary handlers of special teams, Richt said every other assistant other than offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would at least have some responsibility.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...