Official holding a clipboard

Wing Imperatives: Don’t Officiate a Game Without Them!

I’ve viewed some Hudl videos recently that revealed some of our veteran officials are not following the most basic wing mechanics. Here are a few reminders ALL wings should comprehend and apply:

Square-off When Indicating Forward Progress Spot

The covering official should square off when indicating the Forward Progress (FP) spot. (Assuming players are not in the way) proceed to the FP plane from out of bounds (OOB), then turn 90 degrees and move onto the field until you are approximately 5 yards away from the nearest player.

No bananas! If players are in the path to the FP spot, wait until they move to proceed to the FP spot. Don’t rush into/over players near the sideline. Keep a cushion to the players.

If the ball is downed between the numbers and the sideline, there is typically no reason to move onto the field (unless you need to move close to separate belligerent players).

In this clip, the linesman steps on the field at the A-39 and marks the forward progress spot at the A-44. That’s a 5-yard banana.

Keep Your Eyes UP and On the Players

The ground has never caused a personal foul, so we should never stare at the ground (especially when marking FP). As players go OOB or into the EZ, rotate your torso to point it at the players. Do not look onto the field when players are behind you.

In this clip, the linesman does an outstanding job by rotating his body and keeping his eyes on the players out of bounds.

Get to the Goal Line

Note: The yard lines indicated below are a Colorado mechanic and may not reflect your state’s mechanic.

The goal line and the line to gain are “money lines.” Whenever possible, an official must be on the goal line when the ball arrives.

When the ball is snapped inside the B-10, the wings need to work hard to get to the goal line before the runner. When the ball is snapped inside the B-5, the wings need to move immediately to the goal line (and work back if needed).

This is what right looks like. The linesman is standing at the goal line when the ball arrives. He backs up to ensure his safety is not in jeopardy so he can properly officiate the goal line and pylon.

In this clip, the ball is snapped on the B-10 and the wings are responsible to rule on the goal line. The wing has time to reach the goal line before the ball arrives. However, he moves with the ball and is not stationary at the goal line as the ball arrives. His call is correct, but the optic is not the best. Being on the goal line enhances the credibility of the ruling.

Get to the Line to Gain

Like the goal line, the line to gain is a “money line.” When the ball is snapped within 4 yards of the line to gain and the wing reads the tackle is run-blocking, the wing must attempt to be at the line to gain waiting for the ball to arrive.

In this video, the linesman steps to the line to gain and can precisely rule on the ball’s position when the runner is downed. He pinches to sell his ruling and spot the ball. The only mechanic missing here is he needs to kill the clock.

In this clip, the linesman does not immediately step to the line to gain, so he can only guess the ball’s location when the runner’s knee touches the ground. We want to minimize guessing, so we need to be at the LTG when the ball arrives.

Pinch Hard and Spot the Ball

When the ball is downed within 1 yard of the LTG (behind or beyond) or downed close to the goal line, the wings need to pinch hard to the ball and spot the ball. I’ve watched numerous clips of the wings squaring off and staying close to the sideline when the ball is downed close to the LTG or goal line.

We need to “sell” our confidence in the spot. The umpire should never place the ball on the ground when the runner is downed that close to the LTG or goal line.

This linesman sells his spot. His physical action engenders confidence in his spot.

Here is another example of the proper mechanic. The line to gain is at the B-2, so there are two “money lines.” The linesman pinches hard and spots the ball.

In this video, the linesman looks hesitant and doesn’t sell his confidence in the spot. He bananas slightly at the end of the play and doesn’t stop the clock even though the ball is downed close to the line to gain. This is a grass field, so precision is important. The wing should pinch farther to the ball, stop the clock, and spot the ball at his feet.

Reverse Goal Line Mechanics

Note: The yard line indicated below is a Colorado mechanic and may not reflect your state’s mechanic.

Reverse goal line mechanics apply when the ball is snapped inside the A-5. The wings must immediately move back to the pylon at the snap and rule on that “money line.” The R will be on the end line. If the wings read pass, the wing on the R’s side can move downfield with his key(s). The wing opposite the R must stay on the GL.

This play shows three significant mechanics issues. The ball is snapped inside the A-5, so the linesman must step back to the pylon at the snap (the referee has the end line). After the interception, the linesman must step to the goal line and back up so he can properly and safely officiate the goal line. Instead, he retreats and is not in the proper position when the ball arrives. Finally, the referee initially signals touchdown while the linesman signals the runner goes out of bounds at the A-1.

Practice Eye Discipline

Know your keys (inside receiver if the BJ is looking at your side, all receivers if the BJ is looking at the opposite side). Don’t look at the QB! I watched Hudl this week and observed the LJ look into the backfield at the QB. He then watched the entire flight of the ball after the QB threw it deep downfield.

Discipline yourself to look at blockers ahead of the runner and especially at your keys during pass plays.

In this video, the line judge stares at the runner and does not view the blocks ahead of the runner. The referee is responsible for the runner until he moves beyond the line of scrimmage. The LJ must discipline his eyes to focus on the blocks. He does a great job looking at the players out of bounds after the play ends.

In this clip, the formation’s strength is to the linesman’s side, so the line judge has the sole receiver on his side. At the snap, he stares into the backfield and completely ignores his key run down the field. No official is watching that matchup as the back judge is looking at the two outside receivers on the linesman’s side.

Be an Active Line Judge

Line judges need to be active and communicate with the R and the opposite wing. You are looking right at the chains, so when the runner is downed beyond the LTG, give two stop-the-clock signals, then immediately show the R we need to move the chains.

An active LJ is very helpful to the R (don’t make the R ask “what do you have?”). An active LJ will help the HL know if he needs to show urgency and pinch to the ball if the HL has lost track of the location of the front stick.