Several NCAA rules changes went into effect this season, but there was one that was talked about more than the others on opening weekend.
That would be the new "helmet rule" that requires a player who loses his helmet to leave the game for one play. The only exception is if the player loses his helmet as a result of a penalty. For those who need a refresher on the rules changes, here is an explainer I did back in May, complete with comments from ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads.
According to the ACC, players lost their helmets 17 times in the 10 games across the league in Week 1. None were the result of a penalty. That number is not much different than the trend the ACC found last season, when an average of two players per game lost their helmet.
Still, folks are watching much more carefully now. It was probably most noticeable in two nationally televised games: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington were forced to leave their respective games during critical junctures. Boyd, in fact, lost his helmet three different times against Auburn, and Cole Stoudt was forced into the game in his place.
When you have running quarterbacks like Boyd and Washington, they run a higher risk of losing their helmet. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he would spend more time this week making sure Stoudt was ready to go into the game in case Boyd is lost for a play.
“I understand the rule, but for us it’s a little bit of a challenge when you run your quarterback, he gets hit and sometimes he gets in some piles, and sometimes helmets find their way from getting of their head,” Swinney said on the ACC coaches call Wednesday. “The big thing for us is you better have your backup ready to go. One of the things we’re going to do moving forward is to make sure our backup is getting some snaps, throwing the ball, staying loose and being ready.
“I don’t know how we can get the helmet on any tighter. We’re basically about to cut his circulation off trying to keep it on. It’s definitely an issue, especially at that position. It’s not like at wideout or something else, that is such a critical position. ... It’s definitely something everyone is going to have to continue to adjust to.”
Washington was forced out of the game against Virginia Tech on a crucial third-and-8 from the Hokies' 21 on the final play of the third quarter. Synjyn Days went in, rushed for 4 yards and the Yellow Jackets kicked a field goal.
"Well, clearly you don’t want to lose your starting quarterback on third down but that’s the rule," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday. "It looked like the helmet came off when he was on the ground. ... It's just one of those things."
One of those things to watch for the rest of the season.