“I've never seen this many changes,” said Dunklin, who attended the Big 12 officiating clinic in Kansas City, Mo., two weeks ago.
One change, in particular, had John Tyler head coach Dereck Rush scratching his head.
Not including kicks, blocking below the waist has changed for offensive players, who at the snap are on the line of scrimmage and more than seven yards from the middle lineman of the formation. This also applies to offensive players in the backfield, who are outside the tackle box or those in motion.
As an example, coaches were given a chart with green (legal) and red (illegal) arrows showing which directions receivers and backs can cut-block.
“If there's anything in college football and high school football that has changed, it's what you're looking at right there,” said Dunklin, who found it necessary to tell the coaches that the rules committee is made up of other coaches — not officials. “I would say that's a monumental change. ‘Wow' is right.
The new blocking rules also apply to players in motion, or running in place at the snap. They will be restricted toward their nearest sideline when the ball is snapped. The restriction will apply for the remainder of the play.
“If you can teach your wideouts to cut below the waist nowadays, you earn your keep,” Dunklin said. “I would almost say, tell them you can't block below the waist, because how are you going to educate him where his north-south line is … ?”
Confused, yet? I think we all are. Even the officials.
“For a five-man crew, we're going to be dripping like syrup out there trying to figure out what to do about this,” Dunklin said. “Seven-man (crews for college games) … our side judge and field judge will have that guy. In high school it's going to be tough. Normally this would be our back judge on a high school game.”
Give Dunklin credit for being so forthright. He didn't sugarcoat the changes. He said it's probably too much of a change, too soon.
“This is big because I know how you coach,” said Dunklin, adding that this restriction will negate touchdowns and may cost a team a championship.
The hammer didn't just fall on the offense.
Defensive players will also be more restricted.
They may not block below the waist until the ball has traveled 5 yards across the line of scrimmage. In addition, the defense shall not block an eligible pass receiver below the waist until a forward pass is no longer possible.
For example, Dunklin said an outside linebacker — who is outside the blocking zone — can't prevent a sweep by taking the offensive guard's legs out from under him until the ball has gone 5 yards downfield. The same applies to a cornerback, who lines up on the split end. That corner can no longer cut the receiver's legs at the snap.
One bit of good news for the defense: This doesn't restrict defenders inside the blocking zone at the snap from cut-blocking — until the zone “disintegrates.”
The other major change — this one affecting only college football — is the 10-second subtraction.
If either team commits a foul with less than one minute remaining in either half that causes the clock to stop, the offended team may subtract 10 seconds from the game clock at the option of the offended team.
This includes intentional grounding to stop the clock; incomplete illegal forward pass; backward pass thrown out of bounds to stop the clock; false start; defensive encroachment and illegal substitution.
The offended team can accept the yardage penalty and accept or decline the 10-second runoff. If they decline the yardage penalty, the 10-second runoff is declined by rule. However, the fouling team can avoid the 10-second runoff by using a timeout.
Dunklin predicted that some college games would end — not with a play — but on the runoff rule, at which point the officials would seek protection.
Other highlights of the rules changes include making it easier for quarterbacks to “intentionally ground” the ball. The words “reasonable opportunity” have been removed from the rule.
Roughing the kicker/holder has changed to where defensive players blocked legally or illegally into the kicker or holder now have not committed a foul.
There's more, but I think we're all tired by now.