July 17, 2014 10:33:16 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- Quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference are about to become safer. At least that's the plan behind a rule change, presented by SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw.
Speaking at the SEC Media Days gathering Wednesday morning, Shaw outlined a number of rule changes, including amendments to the controversial targeting rule and a new "strike zone" for hitting the quarterback.
"People have asked, 'Do you have a strike zone for quarterbacks?' " Shaw said. "Now there really is. Now you hit them above the knee and below the neck. That's really the strike zone for defenders."
The rule applies to when a quarterback is in a "passing posture," according to Shaw, and is aimed at preventing leg and knee injuries. The rule is modeled after a NFL rule that banned hitting quarterbacks below the knee following a season-ending injury suffered by New England Patriots QB Tom Brady in 2008.
"If a player is being blocked into the quarterback in that situation, it's not a foul," Shaw said, "so we're going to use good judgment. But this is where the player is under his own control and goes low. That's a foul."
Additionally, Shaw outlined changes to the targeting rule, which prevents defenders from hitting defenseless offensive players or leading with their helmets. The targeting rule resulted in 19 penalties last season, which called for immediate disqualifications from the game. Instant replay overruled five of those disqualifications, but the 15-yard penalty remained. This season, if replay overturns the targeting violation, the penalty will be nullified.
"Last year, the 15-yard penalty stood no matter what," Shaw said. "Now if it's targeting only, not only does the player go back in the game, but we will not initiate a 15-yard penalty."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Waler on Twitter @BWonState Beat.