I touched on it briefly in the Lewis post, but let's dig in to the biggest change the game has seen in years. Faceoffs in 2021 for men's lacrosse will be entirely different than they have been for a very, very long time.
The rules committee approved new rules that outright ban players taking a faceoff from having a knee on the turf, and from using the "moto" grip. For the uninitiated,"moto" is short for motorcycle, i.e. the hands of a player grip the stick like they are riding a bike or motorcycle.
This is about the same as football ruling that the snap must come from under center only (allowing for some slight hyperbole). It's not a fundamental change to how the game is structured, but certainly will have ripple effects that really impact play.
What these rules do is effectively prohibit any faceoff posture that isn't standing neutral grip, or SNG for short. It's designed to prevent a team from dominating a game through domination of the faceoff X alone.
A common complaint from a certain faction, the controversy of the faceoff and specialized FOGOs played no small part in the implementation of the shot clock. Lacrosse had no shot clock prior to 2019, meaning that teams could really milk possession of the ball and slow down games.
Stall warnings helped ameliorate that somewhat in the couple years prior to the shot clock, but if a team won 60 percent of faceoffs, they were most likely going to have a serious offensive advantage.
Even with an 80 second shot clock, possession is paramount in field lacrosse. If every possession ended as a violation, each team would get 22.5 possessions.
I believe I saw the average number of possessions in 2019 was around 33 or so over the course of a season. Let's say I am wrong, and it's actually 35. Somewhere around 20 to 25 of those (depending on the day) will be initiated by a faceoff.
If a team wins 15 of those 25 faceoffs, that's an extra 5 chances to score a goal. Over the course of a 13 to 20 game season, you're looking at between 65 to 100 extra offensive opportunities. That's some serious advantage.
If you have TD Ierlan, you could be going 20 of 25 each game. Teams without a FOGO of that level really, really suffer. And there are a LOT of teams that don't have that luxury. Enter SNG.
By outlawing the knee down and moto grip, the rules committee is looking to eliminate the possession advantage enjoyed by teams with dominant FOGOs and even out the playing field. It's designed to allow wing players to have more impact, and the faceoff itself to equalize in outcome.
By having more players involved, and more entropy, the thought process is that a good team with an average or below faceoff man won't be overwhelmed by losing 60% or more of the draws. And, therefore, teams will be more apt to win as an overall unit. I think that is garbage, but no one asked for my input.
Mechanically, the new rules mean that faceoffs will be very quick, fairly simple, and there will be far fewer FOGOs simply sprinting in on cage for a free fast break opportunity.
Winning the clamp won't mean as much as, even if a faceoff player is able to get the ball in his stick right away, his immediate opponent is already on his feet and waiting to counterattack.
This is taking away predominantly clean wins in favor of groundball wars. And, as every youth, middle school, high school, and college coach will tell you until they pass out, groundballs win games.
What does this mean for Ohio State? Justin Inacio has established himself as one of the top FOGOs in college lacrosse utilizing the moto grip. He certainly has the underlying skills to dominate with SNG.
Inacio (and literally every non-LSM faceoff guy) will need to hit the SNG reps hard this off-season in order to really get good at facing off that way. It will not be easy.
And a lot will depend on the wing play of the Buckeyes going forward. Steven Zupicich really looked good as a freshman long-stick during 2020, working to spell Jeff Henrick.
With Terefenko on the other wing, things are looking pretty solid there. As it stands, however, everyone just lost the equivalent of their dominant arm and dominant foot. It's going to be a strange new world in 2021.