Ejections will be jarring penalty for 'targeting' hits in 2013

Emphasis on 'targeting' hits in 2013

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2012 file photo shows South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) and  linebacker Damario Jeffery (33) close in on UAB running back Greg Franklin during an NCAA college football game in Columbia, S.C. Clowney has spent much of this month collecting awards and attending banquets as one of the game's best players.  (AP Photo/The State, Tim Dominick, File)

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2012 file photo shows South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) and linebacker Damario Jeffery (33) close in on UAB running back Greg Franklin during an NCAA college football game in Columbia, S.C. Clowney has spent much of this month collecting awards and attending banquets as one of the game's best players. (AP Photo/The State, Tim Dominick, File)

Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal was the star of a video clip played on the big screen at the front of the main media ballroom last week at SEC Media Days.

He could have done without the attention.

A decade ago, fans and coaches might have cheered Hal’s vicious hit on South Carolina receiver Justice Cunningham. In 2013, it will earn him an immediate ejection.

Steve Shaw, the SEC’s coordinator of football officials, said an increased emphasis on “targeting” — hits in which a defender launches himself toward a defenseless player and hits him above the shoulders — could have the most dramatic impact on the game in decades.

And yet as the 2013 season approaches, few players, coaches or fans are discussing it.

A few early ejections could change that quickly.

Hal, who heard about his dubious recognition in the video presentation, was contrite. He didn’t intend to hurt anyone, nor did he intend to make contact near the head. In a violent game that requires a mix of speed and recklessness, even well-intentioned players can have a hard time following the rules.

The only solution Hal can think of? “Aim low,” he said. “Don’t aim high.”

The targeting foul hasn’t changed from a year ago, but the definition has been expanded and the penalties enhanced.

“The targeting foul is when a player hits a defenseless player above the shoulders,” Shaw said. “Everybody says helmet-to-helmet, but using an elbow, shoulders or the crown or top of the helmet to deliver a blow, that’s a targeting foul. That hasn’t changed.”

What has changed is the meaning of a “defenseless

player.” The category now includes the punter all the time, not just when he’s coming out of his kicking motion. That means no more free shots on a punter aimlessly jogging down the field. A quarterback is now considered a defenseless player after throwing an interception, meaning defensive players can no longer line up to get free and legal “blocks” on an interception returns.

“That doesn’t mean he can’t be blocked,” Shaw said. “He just can’t be hit above the shoulders.”

A year ago, targeting fouls led to a 15-yard penalty. In 2013, the offending player will also be ejected immediately.

“The penalty mimics our fighting rule,” Shaw said. “If you have a targeting foul that’s committed in the first half of a game, then you’re going to be disqualified for that game. If you have a targeting foul that’s committed in the second half of a game, you’ll be disqualified for that game plus the first half of the next game.”

Not all players are thrilled with the changes.

“They’re basically making us play flag football,” said South Carolina cornerback Dominique Easley.

Although the rules emerge from a growing national discussion about player safety, Easley’s confusion is understandable. Until recently, ruthless hits were celebrated by fans and coaches. Defensive coordinators preached “flying to the football.” Old-fashioned “form tackles” were seen as quaint.

But at all levels of the sport — from youth leagues to the NFL — concern about concussions and head injuries has prompted a crackdown on using the helmet as a weapon. Officials want to see more defenders wrapping up a ball-carrier, and fewer tackles made by helmet-first launches.

Coaches are trying to get the new message across before the real games start.

When Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy was ejected from the team’s spring football game, it prompted a flurry of sarcasm online. How could a player get ejected from a spring game, many wondered? In reality, the officials were simply enforcing the 2013 rules.

But Mincy’s ejection illustrates the challenges of enforcing the rules in real-time. Auburn coaches looked at the play again and again and determined that it was probably illegal, but certainly not dirty.

Mincy hit a receiver with his forearm above the shoulders as the receiver turned to catch a pass. The receiver was a “defenseless player” but replays indicated that Mincy was reaching to break up the pass, not make a knockout hit.

SEC replay officials will review each targeting foul and can overturn an ejection on the spot. (The 15-yard penalty cannot be overturned and will stand no matter what).

But Shaw told the Birmingham News that Mincy’s ejection wouldn’t have been overturned.

“You would have to have indisputable evidence that there was no contact above the shoulders. I watched the TV and school video. It was not indisputable. That one would have stood.”

Shaw knows that these are difficult calls, and that defensive backs won’t be the only ones under extra scrutiny this year. Officials will be on the spot, too.

“There are three components,” Shaw said. “Coaches have to teach head-up tackling. Players have to execute what they’re being taught. Finally, if the player doesn’t execute it properly, the official has to have the courage to put the marker on the ground. Our expectation is that they will.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 25

pingkr62 writes:

Using the crown of the helmet to deliver a hit should not be allowed in any situation. In my opinion, if a defender leads with his head, he should do it with his head up, with the face guard making the initial contact. This will help eliminate head and neck injuries. Does anyone remember the hit Chuckie Mullins gave the Vanderbilt player that ended his career, and later his life? I believe if he led with his face guard, his injuries probably would not have been as serious as they were. Again, just my opinion.

eVOLved writes:

Didn't Tyler Bray get hit by someone after an interception, and it messed him up for a while? Was it above the shoulders? Am I making it all up?

wononta writes:

Prepare yourself for a bunch of BS penalties, as refs will overuse this rule in its infancy to set examples. Later it may be somewhat refined, but that will be a couple yrs down the road.
Had to happen. With all the lawsuits pending right now by injured ex-players, the NFL cannot afford to seem as condoning.
Ex Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon retired after recieving several concussions during his career. Recently, he has donated his brain to BostonU Med for the purpose of research into lasting effects of concussion.

notorange writes:

a good intention rule indeed, but after witnessing some of the rotten officiating last year i believe that it opens the door for the refs to help out some of the home teams win if they are in trouble

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say before long its going to be flag football. Witch Doctor can see why programs like Vandy so hopeful not having to jeopardize their egghead degrees/careers by now getting lovingly and respectfully tackled by the opponent. Im sure Franklin secretly smiled when this was passed(hehe)Witch Doctor say from this day forward lets all remember it this way.
Bones never lie.

dvols writes:

It's called Television!!!!!

and its radio gold!!!!

college football is now just entertainment just like NFL and NBA....

too much $$$$

Caspian writes:

Adjustments always go too far and then have to be reeled back. Just another sign of our "all risk is bad", everyone's a winner, entitlement mentality society.

chattabluetick writes:

Heard that officials would huddle and come to decision together. Maybe they won't go too crazy this way. Someone said they were afraid that if one official ejected a superstar in an important game such as SEC championship, that they would probably receive death threats from some idiots. Also afraid that they would get the officials address and show up and poison his trees while he was away from home. We are headed for flag college football in a few years.

CoverOrange writes:

Want to get rid of the helmet to helmet hits? Get rid of the helmets. Trying to protect the players just added a weapon. No more facemasking either. Eye gouging might become a problem.

Any bets on how long into the first Saturday before the first ejection and first controversy? I remember a phantom call back in 2010 Music City Bowl. Also remember Mahalona (sp?) (I think it was Jesse) being give 15 yds for light tap on the helmet of a QB that nullified an interception. Hard to be objective with a subjective rule.

BruisedOrange writes:

BIG PROBLEM:

If the tackler/blocker launches a legal hit and the other player instinctively lowers his shoulder and helmet just an inch to deflect the blow, who gets the penalty for creating an illegal hit? Will that slight lowering even be perceptible in real time?

In a nanosecond, with no forethought or intent to deceive, the "victim" has turned a legal hit into a 15-yard penalty and (albeit temporary, we hope) ejection.

Furthermore, how can the ejection be reviewable but the 15-yard penalty NOT be--for the same act and for violation of the same rule?

This rule is UNWORKABLE, and my sympathies are with the zebras who cannot possibly enforce this rule under game conditions with accuracy or fairness.

In any arena of human activity, once rules, products or services get redesigned to limit lawsuits... "fairness" loses, reason loses. With apologies to my attorney friends, there IS a reason for Shakespeare's famous quote regarding lawyers.

easleychuck writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

BIG PROBLEM:

If the tackler/blocker launches a legal hit and the other player instinctively lowers his shoulder and helmet just an inch to deflect the blow, who gets the penalty for creating an illegal hit? Will that slight lowering even be perceptible in real time?

In a nanosecond, with no forethought or intent to deceive, the "victim" has turned a legal hit into a 15-yard penalty and (albeit temporary, we hope) ejection.

Furthermore, how can the ejection be reviewable but the 15-yard penalty NOT be--for the same act and for violation of the same rule?

This rule is UNWORKABLE, and my sympathies are with the zebras who cannot possibly enforce this rule under game conditions with accuracy or fairness.

In any arena of human activity, once rules, products or services get redesigned to limit lawsuits... "fairness" loses, reason loses. With apologies to my attorney friends, there IS a reason for Shakespeare's famous quote regarding lawyers.

Great analysis....I would even say that looking at a slow motion replay of some of these questionable hits would be impossible to determine fair or foul. So as you point out, how in the world are officials going to get these calls right at full speed?

EastTnVols962 writes:

I'm not sure how I feel about all this. Of course nobody wants to see a player get seriously injured, but I have a feeling we're gonna see A LOT more knee and leg injuries this year. As Clowney pointed out in another article I read, what happens when a 6'3" defensive back is going against a 5'10" running back who lowers his head? Some guys can't get down that low. I think they should make the ejection less severe. Suspend them for the drive, quarter, etc. An early 1st quarter ejection could be very detrimental to some teams. Could you imagine losing AJ in the opening quarter against a team like UGA or USC? Hopefully the refs will take this seriously and make sure they have the right call. I would almost go as far to say they should watch the replay before making the call instead of vice versa. One thing's for sure, it's gonna be interesting.

rbwtn writes:

I don't care how all us hard-core football enthusiasts feel It's the right thing to do We forget its Only a game important to the schools but not worth injuring someone for life. It's not impressive to see someone intentionally hit someone high to injury him. It's Stupid thinking.

antonio14313 writes:

football players can't play real football anymore...

t

VolGrad writes:

Guilty until proven indisputably innocent?

I'd like to see more solid fundamentally sound tackling, but this is beginning to get ridiculous. Judging a player's intentions brings more and more subjectivity into these calls.

BigOrangeJeff writes:

For those of you with comprehension problems, per the new rule, replay officials will review ALL ejections and can overturn them, if warranted.

This rule is meant to be a deterrent. You can't tell me that defenders never see defenseless players and try to "blow them up" so they can see themselves on Sports Center later that day. With any luck, this rule will cause coaches to stress proper tackling techniques and make players think twice before doing violating the rule.

Granted, since officials are human, there will be some unwarranted ejections. Hopefully, the coaches will stress proper tackling and its use will be limited, as with excessive celebration penalties.

But, since many of you already hate the new rule, do you think player safety needs to be addressed and, if so, how? I already saw the tongue-in-cheek (I hope) reference to abolishing helmets. What are some other ideas?

CoverOrange writes:

Local paper had a similar article this morning that focused on the Clowney hit on the Michigan RB, suggesting the Espy award winning play would now result in 15 yds and ejection for Clowney because his facemask encountered the runner's chin. If you have ever worn a helmet and pads you know how hard it is to move your head out of the way. Considering where the NCAA appears to have theirs stuck sometimes, they should know.

brokendownoldvol writes:

I wouldn't last 3 min. in a game today.

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to BigOrangeJeff:

For those of you with comprehension problems, per the new rule, replay officials will review ALL ejections and can overturn them, if warranted.

This rule is meant to be a deterrent. You can't tell me that defenders never see defenseless players and try to "blow them up" so they can see themselves on Sports Center later that day. With any luck, this rule will cause coaches to stress proper tackling techniques and make players think twice before doing violating the rule.

Granted, since officials are human, there will be some unwarranted ejections. Hopefully, the coaches will stress proper tackling and its use will be limited, as with excessive celebration penalties.

But, since many of you already hate the new rule, do you think player safety needs to be addressed and, if so, how? I already saw the tongue-in-cheek (I hope) reference to abolishing helmets. What are some other ideas?

Agree with you on all counts. Especially about how players want to make the big BOOM highlight reels.

How many times have we seen what should have been an easy tackle using correct technique turn into some DB glancing off and rocketing past a receiver (their's or ours) who turns it into a big gain.

This will force better technique.

But it will take several seasons to for ref's to get it right. And it changes the whole dynamic of how current players are used to attacking ball carriers since high school. It is not going to happen quickly for them.
So we're going to see some strange looking football for a while.

Olddogsrule writes:

in response to antonio14313:

football players can't play real football anymore...

t

Fans have been hollerin' bout thet fer over a hunnert year now!

http://symonsez.wordpress.com/2010/10...

I'm just really glad we aren't seeing something like the rise in deaths per season between 1907 to 1909 from 11 to 33. And that even AFTER Teddy Rooseveldt saved the game by having the deadly and injurious Flying Wedge (various mass momentum plays) banned.

Thank you President Teddy Rooseveldt!

Ya, there were some tough mother's son's back then too!

murrayvol writes:

in response to BigOrangeJeff:

For those of you with comprehension problems, per the new rule, replay officials will review ALL ejections and can overturn them, if warranted.

This rule is meant to be a deterrent. You can't tell me that defenders never see defenseless players and try to "blow them up" so they can see themselves on Sports Center later that day. With any luck, this rule will cause coaches to stress proper tackling techniques and make players think twice before doing violating the rule.

Granted, since officials are human, there will be some unwarranted ejections. Hopefully, the coaches will stress proper tackling and its use will be limited, as with excessive celebration penalties.

But, since many of you already hate the new rule, do you think player safety needs to be addressed and, if so, how? I already saw the tongue-in-cheek (I hope) reference to abolishing helmets. What are some other ideas?

Excellent post.

How about sending the HC to the showers with the ejected player?

bUTch_please writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Excellent post.

How about sending the HC to the showers with the ejected player?

I thought the Penn St model had been rejected.

Sorry, low hanging fruit. Dang, did it again.

kazoo writes:

It's good that the SEC wants to crack down on illegal hits--but ejecting a player is a BIG deal, and there is no doubt that the officials will screw it up and throw guys out of games for hits that look tough but actually aren't illegal. It's just a question of how many times they blow it--and when you're ejecting players from games, blowing the call can have some very harsh consequences. There really should be a warning first, and then an ejection on the second illegal hit, IMO. I don't trust the officials to get it right.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to rbwtn:

I don't care how all us hard-core football enthusiasts feel It's the right thing to do We forget its Only a game important to the schools but not worth injuring someone for life. It's not impressive to see someone intentionally hit someone high to injury him. It's Stupid thinking.

And not only that, but it is one thing for people to take risks they are fully aware of and another to subject themselves to a level of risk they never expected or didn't know about. Years ago, when many of us were growing up, we didn't think it was any big deal to "get your bell rung". All our favorite movie and TV cowboy and cop heroes got knocked out a few times every show with no lasting effects or even much mention. We worshipped guys tough enough that they might have to be carried off, but they would always run back on the field afterwards. We fell off our bikes, got hit in the head with baseballs and bats, got dinged in rock fights, and all manner of foolishness that we mostly survived. Still, how could we have known that these "love taps" caused cumulative damage? How much more cumulative damage does a young man get in as much as 25 years of involvement in football?

A young man today, shaped by similar attitudes toward masculine toughness and desire for the massive potential rewards of sports stardom, must seriously ask himself if he is willing to risk disability and early death for the sake of a young man's game. But since most young boys won't ask those questions for themselves--there are reasons young men are preferred for the infantry--from the time they were pee-wee players right on up as far as they go. So their parents are asking FOR them, and often making the decision at an early age that they won't play football. It doesn't help to call this "sissification", not that you did; it is a matter of confronting KNOWN risks compared to unknown ones.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kazoo:

It's good that the SEC wants to crack down on illegal hits--but ejecting a player is a BIG deal, and there is no doubt that the officials will screw it up and throw guys out of games for hits that look tough but actually aren't illegal. It's just a question of how many times they blow it--and when you're ejecting players from games, blowing the call can have some very harsh consequences. There really should be a warning first, and then an ejection on the second illegal hit, IMO. I don't trust the officials to get it right.

You make some good points. There is always confusion in applying new standards. The problem for almost everybody these days, it would seem, is that football is just an inherently dangerous game. If a person decides to play it, there is only so much that can be done to protect him. The question is, at what point do the risks of immediate and/or long-term injury become too great for the benefits gained?

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