OXFORD – Mention player safety in a football discussion, and you’re going to get attention.
If you’re Nick Saban, and you mention it, there’s going to be even more buzz.
When the Alabama coach throws a pebble into college football’s pond, the ripples are longer and farther. Saban is the E.F. Hutton of his day.
New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema won big with power offenses at Wisconsin, and like Saban has been a vocal opponent of a growing trend in the name of player safety.
In a game that is violent by nature, safety should always be the top priority. Different ways to keep players safe will always be discussed.
Safety will evolve, much like styles of offense.
At the end of the day, the name of the game is “win.” A growing number of coaches are determining that fast football helps them do this.
Some coaches oppose the pace citing safety issues for defensive players who are unaccustomed to playing that way and can’t be removed from the game without a stoppage of play.
Some have discussed changing the rules, giving the defense time to substitute. It’s a move that would basically eliminate the advantage of playing fast.
These tempo teams aren’t hiding. You can see them on the schedule.
Saban is famous for his preparation, and he will see the fast tempo early in the year when the Crimson Tide plays at Texas A&M on Sept. 14.
He has had a year to think about that stinging home defeat, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season. It will be interesting to see what gets thrown at Manziel, assuming the Aggies’ quarterback doesn’t party himself into mediocrity before then.
Maybe defensive linemen are better served by having subbed out more often previously during the game.
If fatigue for the student-athlete is a concern, perhaps college football should consider a return to the 11-game regular season or removing conference championship games.
I’m not hearing calls for that.
The tempo offense allows teams like Ole Miss to compete at a higher level. This is to say teams that don’t have the same across-the-board talent or depth of the top teams in the nation.
If you go fast and wide you somewhat neutralize a dominant defensive front.
In the South, it’s easier to find more guys who can catch and run than guys who weigh 330 and can still keep up with the little fellows.
Most teams will have playmakers at wide receiver. When you develop a quarterback who in turn develops chemistry with those guys, then you’ve got something. When you take that chemistry and apply it at high speeds you’ve reached another level.
Call it Gimmick Football if you like, but no administration will embrace diminished fan interest and empty seats in order to play a certain style.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) blogs daily at InsideOleMiss Sports.com.