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DESTIN, FLA. – After experimenting with an eight-man football officiating crew last year, the SEC will add an eighth official to all of its crews for 2015.

The new position is referred to as a center judge and will be positioned opposite the referee in the offensive backfield.

“It gives us a view the referee and umpire don’t see,” said Steve Shaw, coordinator of football officials.

Other new rules and points of emphasis for 2015:

  • Illegal equipment: overbuilt face masks or players not wearing equipment properly (jersey tucked under pads, exposed back pad) will force players to leave for at least one play.
  • If the 40-second clock runs below 25 seconds before the ball is ready to be snapped, the referee can signal for the play clock to be reset to 25 without a stoppage in play.
  • Pushing or pulling a player off a pile is now an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
  • Instant replay may now be used to determine if a player on the receiving team on an onside kick is illegally blocked.
  • In the wake of “DeflateGate,” officials will have a heightened awareness to maintain ball integrity. As in the NFL, college footballs must be inflated between 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch.

“These are student-athletes we are trying to protect,” Shaw said. “The intent of the rule is to get hard head hits out of the game.”