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bobref

Change in punt coverage mechanics

Question

I am in the process of submitting a proposed mechanics manual change to the IHSAA, to be forwarded to the NFHS football rules committee. I’d like to hear thoughts on it from officials. Of course, anyone else is welcome to chime in, if you have an opinion. But this is fairly technical officiating stuff, and may not interest fans.

The current 5 man punt coverage mechanic has R lining up on the kicking leg side of the formation, and BJ assuming a position on the HL side of the field. HL holds at the snap, waiting until the kick crosses the neutral zone before moving to cover downfield. LJ releases at the snap and sprints down his sideline to provide coverage on the opposite side of the field from BJ.

The problem with this coverage mechanic is that at least once a game, we find R and BJ on the same side of the field. When LJ releases at the snap, you have an entire side of the field uncovered. If there’s a fake to the LJ side, or a blocked kick that goes that way, the play becomes impossible to officiate since there is, literally, no one over there. The change I am proposing fixes that, without compromising downfield coverage. It’s called the “alternating wing mechanic,” and is similar to the mechanics change implemented on scoring kicks several years ago. Here’s how it works.

  • R assumes his normal position on the kicking leg side, except that he’s wider. If there’s a fake or a blocked kick to his side, he has primary responsibility for the sideline and secondarily, for the forward progress spot.
  • BJ lines up deeper than the deepest receiver, and to the side opposite R.
  • The wing official on R’s side releases at the snap for downfield coverage, as LJ does under the current mechanic. He is responsible for covering the kick and the return on the side opposite BJ.
  • The wing official opposite R holds until the kick crosses the neutral zone and then moves downfield to cover ahead of BJ. If there’s a fake or block to R’s side, he is also responsible for crossfield determination of the forward progress spot, along with U.

This mechanic provides superior coverage in the event of a fake or blocked kick to R’s side without sacrificing any downfield coverage. In fact, there were a number of crews already using this mechanic, until the IHSAA edict came down that crews would be downgraded if they were observed using any mechanic other than the one prescribed by the NFHS Game Officials Manual.

What say ye?

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I can live with your proposal.  The only other thing is tweak what they already have.  I have done both LJ and BJ for a while.  As far as LJ, why not have them hold until ball is kicked and then flow a little.  1.  You cannot flow too far because you have GL on a return and you cannot flow too far because the return could be coming right at you and you will be stuck in no-mans-land.  2.  The LJ can still get forward progress, because after ball is kicked, they have blocker responsibiilty so they can watch as they are coming down sideline.  

There might be 1-2 plays a season that this affects.  I know this is off topic, but if looking for proposals....1.  Eliminate the coaching box for even calling plays.  Give the sideline guys the entire 3' all game.  Like college and NFL.  2.  On runs out of bounds, wind clock once ball is snapped.  I am not sure about you, but some HS games are pushing over 3 hours because of passing games.  Again, like college and NFL.  

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22 minutes ago, falconsfbref said:

I can live with your proposal.  The only other thing is tweak what they already have.  I have done both LJ and BJ for a while.  As far as LJ, why not have them hold until ball is kicked and then flow a little.  1.  You cannot flow too far because you have GL on a return and you cannot flow too far because the return could be coming right at you and you will be stuck in no-mans-land.  2.  The LJ can still get forward progress, because after ball is kicked, they have blocker responsibiilty so they can watch as they are coming down sideline.  

.  

I don’t think your “tweak” provides sufficient downfield kick coverage on LJ’s side. That’s the beauty of the suggested change. It provides the same level of downfield kick coverage as the current mechanic, with vastly improved coverage of a fake or block to the “open” side.

Edited by bobref
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I'm OK with the proposal, but I don't see the current mechanic as big of an issue. There aren't many punts in HS that go more than 30-yards beyond the LOS. I don't believe the L is expected to be behind the returner so don't get in too big of a hurry to get downfield. Once you realize there is a fake or a block, you can react. I don't understand how you say the L doesn't have the sideline because that's where he is. He won't always be in a perfect position, but he is still there. The fake or block happen rarely so I'm fine with covering it to the most likely scenario.

With 5-man there will be holes on many plays and this is just one example. You'll have holes with either mechanic, but I don't see the current mechanic as a major issue. Your mechanic works as well though.

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I will say that I, as a back judge, always line up opposite the R. It feels right to us. Your proposition makes great sense to me. Biggest help with this is on punts out of bounds you can get the spot out of bounds more accurate too. 

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