DESTIN, Fla. - Steve Shaw got out from behind his podium and tried his best to demonstrate. The SEC’s coordinator of officials brought his hands to his chest, then pushed out.
“I’m not sure I could do it all justice here in a few moments,” he had said a few moments earlier.
But Shaw, the earnest and plain-speaking coordinator of football officials for the SEC, did his best, on the subject that perhaps most confuses the average football fan: Holding.
Every sport seems to have a critical call that seems hard to call objectively: Block-charge in basketball. The high strike in baseball. And football has holding. Shaw was asked last week at league meetings the very simple question: When is it holding, and when is it not?
The call is actually a lot more understood and defined by those in the game, Shaw claimed, and one of the least discussed between games, when coaches and the SEC office discuss disputed calls.
“From a coaching perspective, it’s a pretty regimented, defined area. So the players and coaches know,” Shaw said. “We kid: There are two types of offensive linemen: Good holders and bad holders, and we penalize the bad holders.”
Determining that is obviously the key. It used to be a lot easier to call, as Shaw pointed out, because a blocker had to keep his hands inside his frame. That was changed, opening it up for “interpretation,” he acknowledged.
So here’s how Shaw boiled it down:
“By rule, as long as you’re in proper position, as long as you keep your hands inside his frame, you can pretty much do anything – as long as you’ve got good position on him and as he moves you’re still in good position.
“People see him locked up on (the offensive lineman’s) breast plates and that sort of thing. That’s not holding. OK, by definition that’s not holding. Now when it is, is when I lose my position and he starts to get away, now I’ve got to let him go. I can give him a shove but I can’t hold him back in.”
Then there’s what Shaw referred to as a “point-of-attack” blocking issue, such as a sweep to the right end. If a left tackle sticks his hand out there on a defender, it’s not a call unless it impacts the play.
“We don’t want that call,” Shaw said. “It may be a talk-to-the-player, but it has absolutely no impact to the play, and it has no personal foul, or it has no injury-related component to it, then we don’t want it as a foul. We want uality fouls. We want fouls that impact the play. Fouls that have an advantage (and a) disadvantage.”