Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of College Football Officiating, provides insights about rules changes and the mindset of college football referees. The CFO is the national professional organization for all football officials who work games at the collegiate level.
The rules governing players executing one-on-one low blocking have been in flux for several years. There is general agreement that these rules are far too complicated—difficult for the players to understand, difficult for coaches, difficult for the officials, and almost impossible for the media and the fans.
This year the NCAA rules committee has made some significant changes that make the rule much simpler to understand and officiate, but—most importantly--preserve the safety of the student-athlete.
Here is the new rule. Imagine a zone that extends seven yards from the snapper toward each sideline, goes five yards into the defensive secondary and in the other direction goes all the way back to the offensive team’s end line. Before a change of possession a back who is stationary inside the tackle box and a lineman inside the seven-yard zone may legally block below the waist inside this zone until the ball has left it. Everyone else on the offensive team may legally block below the waist only if the block is clearly to the front of the opponent. This only-from-the-front rule also holds true for everyone on the offensive team once the ball has left the zone. In addition no one on the offense is allowed to block below the waist if the block is directed toward his own end line.
The rules for the defensive team have not changed since last year. Defensive players may block below the waist only inside an area five yards behind and five yards beyond the neutral zone extending to both sidelines. Outside this belt the defense may not block below the waist. It is still the case that no one can block below the waist during a kick or after a change of possession.
These changes mean that the legality of the block depends on the block itself, as it should, not on what direction it is or where the player making the block was when the ball was snapped.