New Substitution Rule Will Slow Down Texas Tech’s Offense


Dec 30, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarter back Davis Webb (7) calls an audible at the line against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another stupid rule in college football. News broke late Wednesday afternoon regarding yet another rule change impacting the “safety” of college football players. This time, it’s about defensive substitutions.

Detailed in a release from the NCAA website, the NCAA Football Rules Committee has altered the rules regarding defensive substitutions, now requiring offenses to wait 10 seconds before snapping the ball to allow defenses to substitute in new personnel.

"Under this rule proposal, the offense will not be allowed to snap the ball until the play clock reaches 29 seconds or less. If the offense snaps the ball before the play clock reaches 29 seconds, a 5-yard, delay-of-game penalty will be assessed. Under current rules, defensive players are not guaranteed an opportunity to substitute unless the offense substitutes first. This part of the rule will remain in place in scenarios where the play clock starts at 25 seconds."

This is the same committee that created major waves last season with the new rules on targeting (which they’ve altered again). However, at least in that case, the effects would be even across all teams. With this new 10-second rule, only the fast-paced, quick-snap offenses (like the one run here at Texas Tech) will be negatively affected.

"The committee believes that 10 seconds provides sufficient time for defensive player substitutions without inhibiting the ability of an offense to play at a fast pace. Research indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock."

Yes, but what the committee obviously didn’t take into account was that, for instance, in an offense like the one Texas Tech runs, the quarterback will first read the defense, make adjustments to the protection, or the play or both, and then snap the ball. Yes, all that takes more than 10 seconds, but that’s only because the defense hasn’t substituted and changed it’s formation.

Now, Davis Webb will have to hurry the offense to the line of scrimmage, wait 10 seconds for the defense to get set, read the look they’re showing, make adjustments at the line and finally snap the ball. All that will take much more time off the clock than the 10 seconds required by rule, significantly cutting into Tech’s competitive advantage.

Last season Texas Tech led the country in total plays with 1,135 (87 per game). Expect that number to nose-dive in 2014.

UPDATE (9:43 p.m.): Former Texas Tech head coach, current Washington State head coach and one of the pioneers of the increasing popular air raid style of offense, Mike Leach, is all too eager to give his opinion on the impending rule change designed to slow down his signature offensive style:

"“First off, [I] doubt it will pass. Second, it’s ridiculous. All this tinkering is ridiculous. I think it deteriorates the game. It’s always been a game of creativity and strategy. So anytime someone doesn’t want to go back to the drawing board or re-work their solutions to problems, then what they do is to beg for a rule. I think it’s disgusting."

He goes on to answer proponents of the rule who contend it will even the playing field and make the game safer:

"“That’s really insulting that they are hiding behind player safety just because somebody wants an advantage. That’s crazy.“My suggestion is rather than spending a bunch of time coming up with a bunch of really stupid rules, spend that time coaching harder. Worry about your own team and try to make your product better rather than trying to change the game so you don’t have to do anything.”"

Tell ’em, Mike. This new rule could impact dozens of programs around the country that make a living off playing fast and catching the defense off guard. See more comments from others like Leach.