Peyton Manning, who has thrown for almost 70,000 yards in the NFL, can have an earpiece in his helmet so that his coaches can communicate with him during the game. He might never turn it on, but he can have it under the NFL’s rules.
Connor Mitch, who has thrown six passes against Furman and South Alabama in his collegiate career, is not allowed the same communication under NCAA rules.
This silliness might soon be rectified.
Maybe the most interesting issue SEC coaches have discussed here at the league’s annual spring meetings is a proposal that would push for college football to adopt at least part of the NFL model of sideline communication. If they get their way, one player on offense and one player on defense would be able to have earpieces in their helmets for one-way communication from the sideline.
“That was brought up seriously for the first time since I have been in the league,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “The NFL model is something that I think is probably coming quicker than a lot of people think.”
That doesn’t mean it’s something that will happen this fall. The most the SEC could do here this week is offer a proposal for the NCAA rules committee to make the change, and even that was not in the works as of Thursday.
“We don’t have any legislation moving in that direction, but as we all know the wheels in football move a lot faster than a lot of other things,” South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, who coached two years in the NFL, is in favor of the switch.
“I liked to be able to talk to (the quarterback) in between plays, give him a little game plan right before the play starts,” Spurrier said. “I think it’s beneficial to the offense. You can call a play and say, ‘Look for this, check it to that if you need to.’ You can give them a little game plan before the ball is snapped.”
The NFL outlaws communication between the sideline and players once the play clock drops below 15 seconds, and most of the SEC coaches seem to favor a similar cutoff.
“That’s probably where the game is going,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “There was some good discussion about it.”
Every other coach in the SEC could have guessed Malzahn would be for it. The architect of one of the conference’s most fast-paced offenses, Malzahn predicted he could go even faster if he could talk to his quarterback on the field.
“I think that’s where our game is going in the near future,” he said. “I would be all for that.”
Even defensive-minded coaches such as Kentucky’s Mark Stoops and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason are for adding more technology to the game. The coaches also discussed allowing players and coaches to use still photos of game action to make adjustments on the sideline during games.
“Anything that improves your ability to communicate and communicate fast in a game that is going extremely fast now,” Mason said, “it helps.”
For a sport that increasingly loves offense, giving quarterbacks more input from their coaches is a no-brainer. Imagine how much more comfortable a new starter such as Mitch could be if his coach could communicate tips along with play calls from the sideline.
“If we’re talking about training guys and putting a better product on the field and also training guys for the NFL, that’s what they do,” Sumlin said. “I think it’s something that moving forward has got a chance in the next couple of years.”