New year, new rules: Here are the important changes for the 2022 college football season

·6 min read

Florida State reserve wide receiver Darion Williamson was not eligible to play in the first half of the Seminoles' season-opener against Duquesne last Saturday due to targeting.

The redshirt sophomore was penalized for targeting in the second half against Florida in the final game of FSU’s 2021 season.

Williamson's automatic ejection carried a 15-yard penalty and he was required to sit out of the first half of the Seminoles' next game, which happened to be nine months later against the Dukes at Doak Campbell Stadium.

While the targeting rule in 2022 still carries a 15-yard penalty, ejection of the player, and carryover of the penalty (if player was ejected in the second half), there's now a twist.

In games that have instant replay, when a targeting foul occurs in the second half, the carryover penalty will be eligible for further appeal.

This appeal is among the key rule changes implemented by the NCAA for the 2022 season.

Mike Norvell likes the change

FSU coach Mike Norvell is happy conference offices can now request a review from the national coordinator of officials for a second-half targeting penalty. If it's clear the player was wrongly flagged, that player can be cleared to play in the first half of his team's next game.

"Darion (Williamson) had to miss the first half of last week's game for targeting. I thought it was unfortunate, because they used his play from the game as an example of something that probably would not have been used," Norvell said.

"We did ask it, but you couldn't retroactively use it. It cost him the first half of the game. So I do think that being very clearly defined in that -- still having reviews and all of those things, it's good."

Despite the tweak, one of the most talked-about issues in college football still pertains to the rule preventing players from using their head to hit another player above the shoulders.

A four-year study conducted by the Pac-12 over conference and non-conference games from 2016 to 2019, showed the risk of concussions from targeting plays was 37 times higher than on non-targeting plays and 49 times higher when the targeting play was upheld.

Norvell stressed the player safety is paramount regardless of any rule changes designed to improve the game.

"Player safety is the number one thing, he said.

"Ultimately, we focus on teaching how to tackle and making sure that we are doing it the right way. But being able to have another clearer definition of it, and being able to have that review even after, if it happens in the second half of the game, I think it's good. Some of the things with the cut blocks, it again goes back to player safety.

"All of those things are good rules."

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Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier instructs Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) during fall football practice at Sanders Outdoor Practice Fields in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]
Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier instructs Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) during fall football practice at Sanders Outdoor Practice Fields in Gainesville, FL on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Faking injuries and cut blocks

An issue that has been subject of significant debate in college football has been when teams fake injuries to slow down games. While officials still can't penalize teams that are believed to be faking injuries, teams can now report the allegation to the NCAA.

Additionally, the NCAA Football Rules Committee is hopeful that banning  all below-the-waist blocking outside the tackle box would cut down the number of knee injuries suffered over the course of the season.

"All these things are I think good for the game," first-year Florida coach Billy Napier said.

"Obviously, player safety being at the core of most of them and then certainly a level of integrity relative to the faking injuries and all of that. The only issue I see, you know, the one area I think is pretty significant is the perimeter cut blocks, in particular, all of these perimeter plays that are essentially running plays on the perimeter where you have to block. The ability to cut has been a factor in some of those.

"So just how you coach those, I think our system, for the most part, we're going to be able to continue to do what we do. I think they're all good, well-thought-out decisions and certainly ones that I think reflect improving the quality of the game and the safety of the game."

FAMU coach Willie Simmons said he also agrees with the rule changes for 2022. He also stressed the importance of teams knowing the rules and player discipline. Simmons noted that FAMU was the most penalized team in FCS football last season, saying, "it's not a category you want to lead the country in."

The Rattlers averaged 8.92 penalties and 85.17 penalty yards per game. They also totaled an FCS-high 1,022 penalty yards. Only fellow SWAC member Jackson State had more penalties than FAMU – 111 to 107.

“Every year the Rules Committee looks for ways to make the game safer and more viewer friendly and the new rules reflect that," Simmons said. "As coaches and players, it’s our job to know the rules and abide by them and this is a huge point of emphasis as we were the nation’s most penalized team in 2021."

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Aug 27, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Florida A&M Rattlers running back Destin Coates (1) catches a touchdown pass during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Florida A&M Rattlers running back Destin Coates (1) catches a touchdown pass during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

2022 College football rules changes

Targeting carryover appeal process

In games that have instant replay, when a targeting foul occurs in the second half, the carryover penalty (of sitting out the first half of that player's next game) will be eligible for further appeal. The process will begin with a conference submitting a request to the NCAA national coordinator of officials, who would review video of the play. If it is obvious that a player was incorrectly penalized for targeting, the call would be overturned, and the player would be cleared to play in the first half of the next game.

Deceptive injury timeout investigation process

To address teams that are awarded an injury timeout through deceptive actions, panel members approved a reporting and investigation process. Schools and conferences will be able to report questionable scenarios to the national coordinator of officials, who will review and provide feedback to the conference for further action. Any penalties levied would be up to the conference office or school involved.

Blocking below the waist

The panel approved a proposal to improve safety and simplify the rules governing blocking below the waist. The proposal will allow blocking below the waist only by linemen and stationary backs inside the tackle box. Outside the tackle box on scrimmage plays, blocking below the waist will be prohibited. Analysis of available NCAA injury surveillance data indicates a decreasing knee injury trend that coincides with recent rules changes in this area.

Other rule changes

If a ball carrier simulates a feet-first slide, officials will declare the runner down at that spot.

Defensive holding will remain a 10-yard penalty but will always carry an automatic first down.

The replay official will address any clock adjustment and status only when a ruling is overturned with less than two minutes in the 2nd or 4th quarter.

Illegal Touching by an originally ineligible player is penalized five yards from the previous spot and now includes loss of down.

Florida Gannett Sports Properties and NCAA.com contributed to this report. 

Reach Jim Henry at jjhenry@tallahassee.com.

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: New college football rules from NCAA designed to improve game