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Senior Bowl helps evaluate officiating talent, too

The Senior Bowl provides an opportunity for scouts to evaluate potential talent for the upcoming draft in a game played largely under NFL rules. The NFL officiating department also uses this as an opportunity to evaluate potential new officials as well.

Since the demise of NFL Europe, the league has lost the ability to develop new officiating prospects outside of their college games. In the 2012 collective bargaining agreement with the officials union, the NFL will bring in college officials under its Advanced Development Program. Under the program, 21 officials are brought in to work with NFL officials through training camp and get on-field experience in a preseason game. In the summer of 2016, the program expanded to 31 officials, although not all get an on-field assignment.

The 2017 development squad will not be announced for a few months, but the Senior Bowl gives some insight as to who is under consideration. The Senior Bowl officiating roster includes the following (positions updated based on official statistics report):

      ADP seasons 2016  conference
R James Carter SEC
U Mike Morton 2015-16 ACC
HL Danny Short 2016 ACC
LJ Maia Chaka 2014-16 Conference USA
FJ Chad Hill SEC
SJ Reggie Smith 2016 Big 12  
BJ Don Willard 2016 Big Ten  
MJ Tony Josselyn 2016 SEC


The crew utilizes an eighth official, however it is not the center judge used by the NCAA, but instead it is a middle judge, which the NFL has been testing in preseason games. The umpire is positioned in the offensive backfield, as  has been the case in the NFL  for the last five years.

Chaka would be vying to be the second permanent female official by the NFL, after Sarah Thomas was hired as a line judge in 2015.

Rule changes

The game will follow the Pro Bowl rules which largely are aimed at player safety. Notably, there is only a kickoff at the beginning of the first and third quarters under special rules. All other possessions that would start with a kickoff begin with a snap at the 25-yard line. The end of each quarter terminates the possession in progress, and the team that takes the opening snap of the quarter alternates each quarter.

The extra-point conversions follow the NFL rules for snap location. Additionally, all touchdowns scored in the second quarter can only attempt a 2-point conversion as a sponsor tie-in to Reese’s Go For Two promotion.

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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4 thoughts on “Senior Bowl helps evaluate officiating talent, too

  1. A solid group (minus 1) of young officials who appear ready to work at the next level. If the NFL does go to 8 next year, some if not all will be there. BTW, Smith was not the Referee, he worked downfield, Carter was the Referee and he is from the SEC. Both did a very good job and I’m betting both will get hard looks when the decisions are made. Good Luck to them all. That being said, is the staff really in need of another female official who runs up and down the field and does nothing more then mark forward progress? Based on what I saw there are more qualified individuals out there vs the next female who was showcased in this game. Sad statement but unfortunately true.

  2. Thanks, Al. We had the list without positions, and placed them based on our best guess. I forgot to preface the roster with that, and I appreciate the correction.

  3. They are trying to catch defensive holding on the TE and on running plays when the defensive lineman grabs the blocker to allow another defender to get to the runner. At this point they are stuck with the umpire in the offensive backfield. This maybe an overkill and will only produce more flags, but that maybe what they want.

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