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Thursday, February 13, 2014
Substitution proposal no B1G deal

By Adam Rittenberg

The NCAA rules committee's proposal to slow down hurry-up offenses generated rapid-fire reactions from the Pac-12, as longtime practitioners Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach voiced their opposition.

While the plan undoubtedly drew smiles in some corners of the SEC – particularly in Alabama and Arkansas – others league coaches like Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze were quick to criticize.

The Big Ten greeted the news with relative silence, mainly because the proposal – hardly a guarantee to go through – likely wouldn't make a big impact in the conference. Although several Big Ten teams run spread offenses and ramp up the tempo, none figures to be dramatically altered if the proposed rule change is approved.

Kevin Wilson
Indiana ran more plays per game than any Big Ten team, but coach Kevin Wilson isn't worried about a proposed rule change to slow offenses down.
Indiana ran more offensive plays per game (77.3) than any Big Ten team in 2013. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson has used the spread offense, and often no-huddle, since 2000, when he brought the system to Northwestern after learning it from Rodriguez, then Clemson’s offensive coordinator.

But unlike Rodriguez and Leach, Wilson sees the proposal, which would prevent offenses from snapping the ball for 11 seconds in 56 of a game’s 60 minutes, as no big deal. He notes that last season Indiana, on average, snapped the ball with about 20 seconds remaining on the 40-second play clock, well within the range allowed by the proposal.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact,” Wilson told ESPN.com. “The average of the highest teams are 19 [seconds] and change. The fast teams [average] around the 20-second mark. You can still have aggressive, attacking offenses and defenses can still do their thing. No-huddle will all be a part of it and people will find ways to stay legal.”

The only snaps that take place within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second clock, according to Wilson, are those that end inside the hash marks, allowing officials to quickly spot the ball and get out of the way. Wilson actually welcomes the fact that officials would have to spot the ball by the 29-second mark – they often do so toward the end of games when trailing teams are in obvious hurry-up situations, but show less urgency in other situations.

Wilson is all for player safety, which the rules committee said drove the proposal, but like other coaches, he struggles to see the evidence that hurry-up offenses are causing more injuries to defensive players.

"We don’t have a play call that says, 'Snap it fast, they've got guys on the field and let's get a [substitution] penalty,'" Wilson said. "That just happens in the flow of the game. We're thinking how to be aggressive and how to attack. We do it because the more plays we get, the more scoring opportunities. I'm not trying to catch people with 12 or 13 [players on the field]."

Wilson and other coaches also question why the current substitution rules would return only in the final two minutes of each half. One Big Ten defensive coordinator, while acknowledging the advantages the proposal provides defenses, told ESPN.com that it doesn't seem fair to offenses.

"What if you are down two touchdowns with four minutes to go? You can't go as fast as possible?" the coordinator wrote in a text message.

Although the proposal would require play-callers such as Wilson and quarterbacks to be more mindful of the play clock -- snapping the ball in the first 10 seconds would result in a delay-of-game penalty -- the added burden would be minimal.

"If they make a rule change, we'll adjust and we'll continue to have an aggressive, attacking style," Wilson said. "Offense means to be the attacker, defense means you have to react, no matter what the rules are."