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Bret Bielema proposes rule to slow down spread offenses

Bielema is the latest college football coach to talk about the need to slow down spread offenses. Is this really a player safety issue, or do these coaches just want to make their jobs easier?


College football coaches have been trying to slow down the spread for as long as it's been in the game. Most confine their efforts to between the sidelines, but according to, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has proposed a rule to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel to allow a 15-second substitution period after every first down in order to keep defenses fresh against high-speed opponents.

Bielema explained his motivation for the proposed rule:

"Not to get on the coattails of some of the other coaches, there is a lot of truth that the way offensive philosophies are driven now, there's times where you can't get a defensive substitution in for 8-, 10-, 12-play drives," Bielema said. "That has an effect on safety of that student-athlete, especially the bigger defensive linemen, that is really real."

The rule is far from being approved, but Bielema isn't the only coach who is interested in slowing down the pace in college football. Just last year, Alabama head coach Nick Saban questioned whether the spread offense is dangerous to the players, a statement taken by many to be more from a place of self-interest than genuine interest in player safety.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a Saban disciple, has also chimed in in support of slowing things down:

"That's something you've got to really watch as far as those things are concerned and guys getting lined up and getting themselves in position where they can defend themselves," Muschamp said. "That's something that does not always happen sometimes with as fast as these teams are moving."

The SEC reportedly mandates a 12-14 second pause between plays in order for the officials to get set. How firmly that rule is enforced is anyone's guess, considering there aren't many teams in the conference who like to really push the tempo on offense. That's changing with the addition of Texas A&M, and new high-tempo offenses at Ole Miss and Auburn, but the SEC is still far from a leader in terms of offensive pace.

The SEC team with the fastest adjusted offensive pace in 2012, according to this wonderful chart and explanation over at Football Study Hall, was Ole Miss, who was only 35th in the nation. Bielema's Wisconsin team was 82nd in adjusted pace, Alabama was 107th and Florida was 114th, so at least those three coaches are sticking to their guns.

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