Nick Saban caused quite a stir across college football last week when he argued that up-tempo no-huddle offenses like West Virginia's and Baylor's -- and Ole Miss', which had gone on two lengthy touchdown drives against his defense the previous Saturday -- were both unfair and a player safety hazard.
With a similar chance to chime in on potential rules changes Wednesday, Saban's SEC West coaching colleague, Les Miles of LSU, sounded a very different tune, saying uncalled holding penalties are the sport's biggest safety concern -- and that that's where any rules changes should happen first.
"If I had the magic wand on changing rules, I would call holding much more effectively," Miles said during an SEC teleconference, as quoted by al.com.
"I think those guys that are pursuing the defense have to have their hands inside," Miles said. "I think anytime an offensive lineman closes in around the defensive guy and he loads his body with greater weight, to me in play that is a much more significant problem than hurry-up ...
"I don't know that [the no-huddle] is as urgent an issue in my mind. I would call holding much more stringently offensively because I think it's a health issue for the defense."
So, dear reader: Did you believe it was coincidence that Saban just happened to air his gripe about players being exhausted by no-huddle offenses days after the Rebels pulled off 13- and 16-play drives in Tuscaloosa? And, now, do you believe it's coincidence that Miles is concerned about holding going uncalled the week after his defense gave up 176 rushing yards and was visibly shoved around in the second half by Florida?
To be fair to Miles, he wouldn't be the first person to complain about SEC officials being stingy when it comes to calling holding penalties; the league's fans have been voicing the same concern (particularly as it applies to the conference favorites) for years. While it may or may not be a safety issue, and may or may not be the case outside the SEC, we won't dispute that the conference officials could be more stringent when it comes to holding violations.
But that also doesn't mean the "What rules changes would you like to see?" question, for Miles and Saban, hasn't simply been a Rorschach test for whatever happened to bother them in film study from their previous game. Their answers aren't about making college football better, necessarily; they are about fixing whatever problem their defenses just happened to confront last Saturday.
Photo by Jake Roth, US Presswire.