The National Federation of State High Schools Association Board of Directors adopted seven rules revisions last month that were recommended by the Football Rules Committee.
It is up to each state association to adopt the recommendations.
A major change is a 40-second play clock, which will start when the ball is declared dead by an official from the previous play.
The play clock will continue to start at 25 seconds in six instances:
• Prior to a try following a score
• To start a period or overtime series
• Following administration of an inadvertent whistle
• Following a charged timeout
• Following an official’s timeout, with a few exceptions
• Following the stoppage of the play clock by the referee for any other reason
“I think we all will have to see how it will be enforced, the KHSAA hasn’t (yet) agreed to accept them,” North Hardin coach Brent Thompson said.
The 40-second play clock will influence both sides of the ball.
“I know I talked to my defensive coaches all the time to make sure we get our defense signaled in quickly,” Thompson said. “We have to get better at that to make sure our players get the call before the offense comes to the line of scrimmage. I know getting the signals in has always been a concern of ours and now it will increase more since we are on the clock.
“I have some returning linebackers, so hopefully that will help us get the signals quicker and get it relayed to the whole defense. It definitely puts a major time crunch on the coaches.”
The change to the play clock is being done to establish a more consistent time period between downs.
“I think the 40-second rule could allow more consistency with officials and time to get plays in,” Grayson County coach Ed Smart said. “I know we play some places where the officials are very quick to set the ball and start the 25 seconds, and others take their time. Sometimes this can create some issues for play calling, especially on offense.”
Josh Jaggers and the LaRue County Hawks are coming off a Class 3-A state semifinal appearance, and has been around the game a long time with because of the Jaggers’ family coaching tree.
“I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference,” he said. “It usually takes somewhere between 10-15 seconds to get the ball set after the previous play is blown dead as well as the sticks moved, set as needed, then the 25-second clock gets to ticking. So you’re looking at that 40 seconds, give or take, even with the old system.
“I could be wrong, but I don’t seeing it really being that noticeable.”
John Hardin coach Chris Engstrand thinks “the 40-second play clock should speed things up somewhat.
“If I read that correctly, it eliminates a ‘ready for play’ whistle and allows the snap as soon as the ref backs away from the ball. I wonder if this will also include substitution time like we see in the NCAA. If the offense subs, will they give time for the defense to do the same? Not many high school teams do that, but for those of us that do so defensively based on personnel, this could have an impact.”
Wes Arnold is entering his second season with Fort Knox and is coming off a 4-7 campaign, the first four-win season since 2004.
“I think it favors up-tempo or no-huddle type teams that want to play fast, which is not what we do,” he said. “I think at smaller schools like ours and the schools we play, it may cause some issues as the game feels like it will speed up now and that may cause teams with less depth to get tired quicker.
“I am not in favor of the change, I liked the old system better. We try to shorten the game and drain as much time off the clock. We don’t have signals and most of the time we run a play in and out of the huddle. I feel like as a coach you will be pressing to get the play in faster, as the play clock will begin immediately and that in turn will speed us up. It will take a few games to get adjusted to it as well.”
Todd Tharp is the assistant director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association and chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee.
“The entire committee needs to be commended for its thorough discussion regarding the move to a 40-second play clock, except in specific situations that will still have a 25-second play clock to show play is ready to begin,” Tharp said in a statement released by the NFHS. “This is one of the most substantial game administration rules changes to be approved in the past 10 years, and without detailed experimentation from several state associations over the past three years, along with cooperation of the NFHS Football Game Officials Manual Committee, all the elements needed to approve this proposal would not have been in place.”
The Trojans are coming off their best regular season since 2001.
“I don’t mind the change,” Thompson said. “It kind of takes the timing away from the refs, but I don’t mind it either way at all. I think it’s hard to truly answer ’cause I haven’t coached in a game with these changes.”
• Also adopted was the recommendation to change the definition of a legal scrimmage to require at least five (instead of seven) offensive players on the line of scrimmage with no more than four backs.
“I do feel like officials struggle sometimes to see who is covered up and who is not,” Smart said. “It really cost us in our playoff game. I think for offensive coaches it can take away some formations that make defenses have to prepare for.”
The NFHS Football Rules Committee said the change will make it easier for officials to recognize legal and illegal offensive formations.
“I think the formation change is more for times when the offense may be missing a player and they don’t get called for having an illegal formation. There have been numerous times where teams will send covered up players on routes,” Thompson said.
“The new scrimmage rule will eliminate a penalty against the offense for not having 11 on the field. Example would be in a punt situation, the punt team won’t be penalized by only having 10 on the field because they don’t have seven on the line of scrimmage, now you only have to have five, but are still limited to four in the backfield,” Engstrand said.
“I am not sure how it will affect offenses, but one issue for us is we get so many new kids and a lot are very new or inexperienced with football,” Arnold said. “We don’t have a high football IQ, so we have to go over a lot of who is eligible on a play. This new rule will add some challenges for our kids and coaches in weekly preparation.”
• A massive change approved by the committee is to allow state associations an opportunity to implement instant replay procedures only for postseason games.
It would allow the use of a replay monitor for a replay or game official to review decisions by game officials.
“The ultimate goal of each game official and each officiating crew is to get the call correct,” Tharp said. “Each state association, by individual adoption, can now use replay or video monitoring during its respective postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Each state association, if it adopts this rules revision, will also create the parameters and scope of the replay.”
• Also included were two changes approved in an effort to reduce the risk of injury. First, tripping the runner is now prohibited. It will be a foul to intentionally use the lower leg or foot to obstruct a runner below the knees. Previously, a runner was not included in the definition of tripping. Second, the “horse-collar” foul was expanded to include the name-plate area, which is directly below the back collar.