The targeting rule had its intended impact last season, according to Southeastern Conference coordinator of football officials Steve Shaw.
Targeting — which resulted in a 15-yard penalty, player ejection and half-game suspension for blows to the head of receivers — was a hot topic during the 2013 season, but the goal was to reduce the number of head injuries and change player behavior.
Based on the number of penalties last season, Shaw is convinced the targeting rule hit its mark, because there were only five targeting penalties in the second half of the season after having 14 during the first half.
Nonetheless, the targeting penalty, which will continue to be a point of emphasis, has changed a bit.
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During its first season, targeting was reviewable, but the accompanying 15-yard penalty stood even if the ejection was overturned.
That will no longer be the case. If the ejection is rescinded, the 15-yard penalty also will disappear — through it’s possible a separate personal foul could still be assessed on a given play, for instance if there’s a late hit.
Intentional grounding in the end zone now will be reviewable along with all cases of a catch or recovery. Officials also can check a replay to determine if a pass out of bounds went backward.
Nationally, pace of play and sideline management/control are expected to be points of emphasis in 2014 along with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, particularly choreographed celebrations and taunting, Shaw said.
There are no changes per se to alter the pace of play, but Shaw said officials are expected to jog crisply — not sprint or walk — to spot the ball after each play. If there are offensive substitutions, the defense will still have a chance to substitute as well. Otherwise, the ball will be whistled ready for play and the offense can snap it at any time.
Shaw also explained the experimental eighth official’s role in games. He will spot the ball on each play, help monitor the middle of the field and assist the head referee in tracking substitutions.