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Utah OC not concerned with "Saban rule"

Published April 23, 2014 11:35 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Many coaches who favor an uptempo offense are upset over the proposed "10-second rule," which would require offenses to wait 10 seconds before snapping the football so defenses could make substitutions. The rule, tagged by many as the "Nick Saban rule," will be considered by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel Thursday during a teleconference. The official reason for possibly implementing the rule is for player safety, with the idea that defensive players are more at risk if the offense goes right to the line of scrimmage because the defense wouldn't have time to substitute. However, most coaches believe it really is meant to slow down offenses, hence the nickname the "Saban rule," since the Alabama coach is one of the most outspoken coaches against uptempo offenses. (Utah's win over Saban's team in the 2009 Sugar Bowl wouldn't have anything to do with his dislike of uptempo offenses, would it?) It's unlikely that the rule will pass, with a recent ESPN.com poll revealing 73 percent of coaches opposed the rule while just 19.5 percent were in favor of it. Another seven percent were undecided. You can put Utah offensive coordinator Dave Christensen into the category of not really caring. He isn't too concerned about the rule, even though he plans to use an uptempo offense this year. Christensen said at Wyoming it took his team 18 seconds to snap the ball and the Cowboys played fast. "It might only affect you two or three plays a game, if that," he said. The Utes desire for a quick tempo reached almost comical levels last year as it became a daily topic during the preseason, to the point that coach Kyle Whittingham finally had enough and said tempo was overrated, pointing out many of the teams that snapped the ball 88 times or more lost their games during the first weekend of play. "It's not about tempo, it's execution," he said. Ultimately, injuries and other factors forced the Utes to make adjustments that led to less emphasis on tempo and more to just surviving the season. But uptempo will be the name of the game this year, Christensen promises. The key in his mind with an uptempo offense is getting first downs on first downs. "You have to get that first down early," he said. "Otherwise tempo hurts you because the defense is out on the field a lot longer." Utah struggled mightily last year in its efforts to come up with a consistent offense, earning just 235 first downs on the season to rank 91st nationally. The Utes ranked 103rd in third down conversions, going 64-of-187. Can the Utes get that issue corrected and finally play at the speed they've wanted to for several seasons now? Christensen thinks they can, and he doesn't seem too worried that defenses nor any rules will stop the Utes from doing so. "Speed, tempo and space, those are the three things I will emphasize," he said. "The biggest thing is if we can snap the ball in a hurry." - Lya Wodraska