What's old is new again as college football returns to its traditional timing methods for the 2007 season. See what other tweaks the NCAA made to the rule book and read what coach Jim Donnan has to say on some of the changes.
Two big changes
Rule change 3-2-5-e: When Team B is awarded a first down, the clock starts on the snap
Old rule: When Team B is awarded a first down, the clock will start on the ready-to-play signal
Jim Donnan: Last year the rule was that as soon as the referee marked the ball ready for play, the clock would start. Now with all these situations like a fair catch or taking over on downs, the clock will start when the ball is snapped. There's not going to be a situation in which a team has to run out to get a play started. The most important value is that at the end of the half and the end of the game the clock will not run out on change of possession. If there is time on the clock, teams will have to take at least one snap. Also, the two-minute offense will not lose any time when the clock is started on the snap this season.
Rule change 6-1-1: The free kicking team's restraining line is the 30-yard line
Old rule: The free kicking team's restraining line is the 35-yard line
Jim Donnan: This is a massive change in college football. It's going to be very difficult to kick the ball out of the end zone from the 30-yard line unless you have a heavy wind. The first thing is more teams will probably take the ball instead of deferring and getting the ball to begin the second half. You'll have the first opportunity to establish field position offensively, which will be much easier than it used to be. Unless you have an outstanding defense or outstanding kicker, teams will go ahead and receive the opening kick. Kickers are going to have to work hard on directional kicks, kicking to spots on the field and maybe some high pooch kicks to say 'I'm going to give them the ball on the 20 but I'm not going to give them a chance to run it back.' Teams are probably going to have to utilize more first-teamers on their special teams because of the coverage skills that are going to be involved. Overall, offenses will definitely be the benefactor of this change because their chances of scoring are highly increased. It's also going to affect your play calling. You can be in more of an attack mode early in the game if you establish good field position.
The 10 other changes
• Rule change 3-1-1: The coin toss ends when captains return to the nine-yard marks
• Rule change 3-2-2-h: After television timeouts, the ready-for-play interval is 15 seconds
Jim Donnan: Most teams are ready for this change based on last year's running clock because they had to be ready to get out on the field. It won't be as much of a change for them as it would have been had they made this change last season.
• Rule change 3-2-2-i: After an inadvertent whistle game time is restored
• Rule change 3-2-5: The clock starts when a free kick is legally touched
• Rule change 3-3-7-b: For live televised games only, a charged team timeout shall be 30 seconds plus the 25-second play clock interval
Jim Donnan: That's going to take some adjustment because you're used to a little longer time with your players. Usually when you call a charged timeout, you're using it to make an adjustment to something that's happening in the game. That's a way to speed up the game and save a few seconds.
• Rule change 6-1-2: The referee declares the ball ready for play when the umpire hands the ball to the kicker
Jim Donnan: That rule is in place to make sure the kicker doesn't take all day to kick it off. In this case, they're trying to be uniform where all the referees in the country know that when the umpire hands the ball to the kicker, then the 25-second clock starts. Some referees are slower than others in marking the ball ready for play and your team has to be ready to adjust to that.
• Rule change 6-2-1: Free kick out of bounds: Five-yard penalty previous spot or Team B's ball 35 yards from Team A's restraining line
Old rule: Five-yard penalty previous spot or Team B's ball 30 yards from Team A's restraining line
Jim Donnan: Because the free kick is now from the 30, they've added 5 yards to the out of bounds penalty to keep the ball at the opponents' 35-yard line.
Normally, if a free kick goes out of bounds and you're the receiving team, you'd take it at the 35. But with kicks now coming from the 30-yard line, if there's a 5-yard penalty the opposing team will be kicking from the 25. Everybody might be looking to take that penalty a little quicker than they used to.
• Rule change 9-1-2, 9-3-3, 10-2-2-e: Penalty enforcement on kick is the previous or succeeding spot
• Rule change 9-3-5-b: Defensive players restricted on kicks
Jim Donnan: This a good rule. Anybody that blocks a kick needs to do it on his own. This is basically just adding language that eliminates an idea that you can use part of your teammate to propel yourself over somebody.
• Rule change 12-3-3: Egregious fouls added to reviewable replays
Jim Donnan: When you have replay available, it's important that you use it to figure out what exactly happened on these types of plays. It shouldn't have to wait until after the game is over when the commissioner reviews it. You should use instant replay as much as you can, and use it as quickly as you can. It not only helps the game, but it helps the fairness of the game.
Jim Donnan was the head coach at Georgia and Marshall and is an ESPN college football analyst.