College Football

How college football adopting helmet communication will be complicated process as sport continues to evolve

How college football adopting helmet communication will be complicated process as sport continues to evolve

College football will finally add helmet communication for all Football Bowl Subdivision games beginning this fall after the NCAA approved a rule change in April. The monumental switch comes after years of lobbying and conversation about cost and liability, and it will radically shift the game moving forward. 

The rules for college football helmet communication largely mirror the NFL, which first brought the technology to the field in 1994. Only one player on each side of the ball will be allowed to have a radio in their helmet, signaled to officials by a green dot. Communication will be shut off with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock or when the ball is snapped, whichever comes first. 

“There’s a lot of unique opportunities with the headset,” Nebraska coach Matt Rhule told CBS Sports. “And what I love about it is you’re preparing the guys on offense for the NFL, because they’re going to be using it in the NFL.” 

CBS Sports spoke to coaches and former players across college football to understand how teams may use helmet communication in the fall, including Rhule, a former NFL coach with the Carolina Panthers. While the rules may be similar, differences between college football and the NFL means its implementation could look drastically different. 

The offensive question: to huddle or use tempo?

Over the past 20 years, the traditional huddle has largely disappeared from college football. A handful of teams still huddle to slow down the game and install a play, but most communication now comes from the sidelines via hand signals.

Ultimately, offense face a fork in the road with the introduction of helmet communication. Slowing down the game and moving towards the huddle allows teams to increase complexity and become harder to defend. To the contrary, running no-huddle concepts with helmet communication allows teams to be even more efficient. 

“I think you’ll see some teams go back to the huddle,” Rhule said. “I’ve talked to some coaches who say they’re going to go faster than ever because the defense isn’t going to be able to use the headset for themselves. I think different teams are going to take it in different ways.” 

For tempo offenses, a quick call can go to the quarterback, who can then shout out or signal a play in seconds before the defense truly has time to react. However, quick play calls limit complexity. Going back to the huddle allows teams…

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