Rule Change

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

With the 2024 season just around the corner, everyone is scouring websites, rosters, and Phil Steele Preseason magazine.

While rosters and coaching staffs in this day-and-age of college football change year to year, there is another aspect that does as well…the rules of the game.

While 2024 High School football will look virtually the same (the only rule change for HS Football is the home team jersey has to be a darker color to contrast with white numbers), there are a couple of key changes in the rule books for both the college and NFL games that will undoubtedly affect the game this year.

Saturdays in college football have seen a “trickle down” effect for rules implemented in the NFL a few years prior but changes this year have taken longer than usual to find their way to the college game. The main changes include the implementation of the 2-minute warning, player-to-coach communication, and tablets on the sidelines.

The 2-minute warning is a term that most football fans have known for a while in the NFL and was first implemented in professional football in 1942.

For the second and fourth quarters of a college football game, there will be an additional timeout at the 2-minute mark for the first time in the history of college football.

The new pair of two-minute stoppages are designed to not only help players and coaches with late game and late half execution while also making it slightly easier for officials when timing changes in the last two minutes of the half (clock stopping on a first down to set the ball).

A couple of technological advances that again stem from the NFL are entering the college game in 2024 as well.

The first that was a hot topic of conversation last season in the Michigan sign-stealing saga of 2023 is coach-to-player communication systems in players helmets.

This is a system that places a speaker in one player’s helmet on the field that allows a coach to speak to that player to call in a play.

These helmets that have the communication device will have the green dot sticker on the back (much like the NFL protocol), and allow a coach to talk into the player’s ear until the system is cut off with 15-seconds remaining in the play-clock or the snap of the ball (whichever happens first).

The other technological advancement is the ability to have tablets on the sideline which will actually give coaches more of a resource than are in the NFL.

NFL Tablets have been on the sideline since 2014, but in the professional side, the tablets only show images and not instantaneous video replays.

The college game will implement the allotted 18 tablets on the sidelines that can view in-game video only from either the broadcast feed as well as coaches video angles from the sideline and endzone.

While the rule modifications for college football are more ancillary, the NFL changes for 2024 affect the game more directly.

The biggest that has been a point of conversation for many years now was the new kickoff rule adjustment that follows a similar format that the XFL spring league used in 2023.

While the kickoff will still take place from the 35-yard line, the remaining 10 members of the kicking team will line up on the opposite 40-yard line. The receiving team will have a minimum of 9 players between the 30 and 35-yard lines with a maximum of 2 players back deep to receive. The play doesn’t begin (meaning players can’t move) until the ball is either caught by a returner or bounces inside the “landing zone” which is defined as the goal line to the 20-yard line. Any kick that touches in the landing zone must be returned (or downed) even if it bounces into the endzone.

The other NFL rule change for the coming fall is the elimination of the “hip-drop” tackle when a defender grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner up with both arms, then unweights himself by dropping his lower body AND trapping the runner’s legs at or below the knee underneath.

While there could be some late additions like the NFL experimenting in the pre-season with the chips in the ball to determine a first down, this is the majority of the changes you’ll see this fall.

While the NFL is more an “on-the-field” change, the college game may get talked about more and deeper into the season as an impact of whatever this ever-changing college football landscape looks like.

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