Thursday, February 13, 2014 8:04 PM
Hood: Saban's whining might change the HUNH
by David Hood
Senior Writer

The big, bad boys of the SEC are running scared, but proposed rule changes in college football that would limit the “hurry” part of the HUNH might calm those fears a bit.

Also, I wonder what Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris will have to say about this.

Let me get you up to date – I know a lot of people have been snowed in this week and might look for a little college football talk.

The NCAA football rules committee is proposing changes for the 2014 season that would loosen the reins on defensive substitutions. The committee's proposal would allow defensive players to substitute within the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock, except for the final two minutes of each half.

Offenses that snap the ball before 29 seconds remain on the play clock would receive a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty. Current rules state that defensive players aren't guaranteed the opportunity to substitute unless the offense first substitutes. Under the proposal, this policy would remain when the play clock starts at 25 seconds.

It’s no surprise that two coaches who have been vocal about slowing down college football offenses are from the SEC – Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema. Both of those coaches said last summer that up-tempo offenses are likelier to cause injuries for defensive players who can't get off of the field in time.

Both of those coaches spoke to the committee before the recommendation was made.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, and maybe I am. But I’ve been watching the HUNH offense at Clemson for the past three seasons, and the only injuries I have seen are fake ones. Being fat and out of shape and sucking air late in a game isn’t an injury. Laying down on the field because you want to slow down the other team’s offense isn’t an injury.

Bob Stitt, who is the head coach at the Colorado School of Mines, showed how he feels about the proposal on Twitter Thursday.

The only thing risking injury in an up tempo football game is the defense's pride! Nut up, it's football!

— Bob Stitt (@CoachBobStitt) February 13, 2014

Football has always been about change, and offensive minds have always been trying to figure out ways to beat the defense, and defensive minds have always found ways to slow down the offenses. We’ve seen the Wing-T, the option, the spread option, the spread and the Fun-n-Gun. It’s what coaches do. And the best defensive minds have always figured out ways to stop those offenses, which run in cycles.

The latest trend has been the HUNH – which stands for the Hurry Up No Huddle – as offensive coaches endeavor to get the ball snapped before the defense is set. Much like the spread, it helps offenses with lesser talent beat more talented defenses. And, if we give it enough time, some bright minded defensive coach will figure out how to stop it.

Until now. The defensive coaches are asking for help, and the NCAA is rushing to their rescue.

These new developments take me back to a conversation I had at the Orange Bowl with a former member of the staff at Alabama. We were discussing the Crimson Tide defense and their woeful attempts at stopping Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and he laughed and said that is why Saban has been trying to get the rules changed.

He told me to go back and look at Bama’s schedule, and find the three teams with an actual pulse on offense. I grabbed my smartphone, and told him I found four – Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn and Oklahoma. He then asked me which three run some version of the spread and HUNH, and I came up with Texas A&M, Auburn and Oklahoma. He then smiled and said the results speak for themselves.

Alabama didn't fare well defensively against those three teams, giving up 121 total points and an average of 483 yards per game. In Alabama’s 10 other games – against offensive juggernauts like Colorado St., Georgia St., Chattanooga, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Arkansas – the Tide gave up a total of 60 points, for an average of six points per game.

No wonder Nick wants the change and shame on the NCAA if they help him get his wish.

However, there is good news. The rule still has to be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel before it can take effect next season.

Here are the members:

Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner
Jon Steinbrecher , MAC Commissioner
Shelley Appelbaum, senior women's administrator, Michigan State.
Derita Ratcliffe, senior women's administrator, UAB.
Jeff Hurd, commissioner, WAC.
Noreen Morris, commissioner, Northeast Conference.
Lisa Sweany, AD, Armstrong Atlantic State University.
Kristy Bayer, senior women's administrator, Arkansas Tech.
Doug Zipp, AD, Shenandoah University.
Lynn Oberbillig, AD, Smith College.
Sue Lauder, AD, Fitchburg State University

Scott and Steinbrecher might be sympathetic to the cause of the HUNH, but those others? Change could indeed be coming, and it will be interesting to see how Morris feels about the possible change. We will get to talk to him in a few weeks when the Tigers start spring practice.

I guess you could say that Saban is merely doing his due diligence, and that he is finding a way to stop the up-tempo offense. Maybe kudos should go his way for finding a way to stop them. However, instead of film work and recruiting the kind of faster, leaner defenders that are built to stop these kinds of offenses (and it can be done), he is letting the NCAA do his work for him.

David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com