Malzahn, Bielema spar over tempo

The tempo offense question has been a hot topic for two days, and I suspect that won’t change today.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is in the rotation, and Saban kind of got this discussion started some time ago. He opposes quick-snap football.

Player safety seems to be an issue, and there’s debate about whether evidence exists that supports greater risk for players — presumably for players on both sides and not just defensive players — while an up-tempo offense is employed.

Hugh Freeze on Tuesday pointed out to the athleticism of football players, saying that defensive linemen are almost always more “athletic” than offensive linemen, who he described as the “least athletic” players on the field.

The theory is that if you’re athletic you can keep up. Makes sense.

While the possibility of rules changes to slow things down has been batted around, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, a close friend of Freeze, says he favors a different type of change.

Malzahn says rules should be changed to penalize defensive players who are faking injuries to slow down the tempo offense.

“We’re a two-back run play-action team that will run our offense at a two-minute pace the entire game,” Malzhan said. “Our goal is to play faster than anybody in college football.”

That’s another big question there. If there are rules changes to slow down the tempo that could greatly impact the last two minutes of a game. Often, one team needs to go fast in comeback mode not because it wants to but because it has to.

Malzahn said when he first heard the safety issue raise around the tempo offense he thought it was a “joke.”

“That’s like saying the defense shouldn’t blitz after a first down, because they’re a little fatigued, and there’s liable to be a big collision in the backfield.”

New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has lined up with Saban on this issue. Bielema had very successful power teams at Wisconsin.

He seemed to take offense, maybe it was just part of the show, with Malzahn’s “joke” theory.

“I’m not a comedian. Everything I say I truly believe in. All I know is this: there are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extended amount of time without getting a break. You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after lay 15. If that exposes him to a risk of injury then that’s my fault. I can’t do anything about it because the rules do not allow me to substitute a player in whether I’m on offense or defense.”

He continued: “I’m looking at it from a head coach’s point of view. I’ve had a situation that I’ve had to call a parent because their son may not make it through, not make it through life but the next day, whether he can play football or not. To me that’s real. That’s the job I have to protect.”

Bielema was a member of the NCAA rules committee that made significant changes in the kicking game.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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