Penn State Football: Targeting Rule Still Not Quite Clear
Over the past several months the powers that be in college football have been working on making the game safer. It's a respectful quest, but at least one rule change is going to lead to controversy.
The rule, which penalizes players for targeting the neck or head area is fine in theory, but some wrinkles in the application of the rule seem confusing.
According to a handout produced by College Football Officiating, LLC, if officials see the following things, the risk of a targeting foul is high:
- Launching toward an opponent to make contact in the head or neck area.
- A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust with contact at the head or neck area.
- Leading with the helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow into the head or neck area.
- Lowering the head before attacking and initiating with the crown of the helmet.
According to that same handout, the following factors would indicate less risk of a targeting penalty being called:
- A heads-up tackle where the crown of the helmet does not strike above the shoulders.
- A wrap-up tackle.
- The head is to the side rather than used to initiate contact.
- Incidental helmet contact due to players changing position during the play.
Blatant head shots will be penalized, but targeting is a tough judgement call to make, even more so if an offensive player lowers his shoulders and head at the last second.
The best example of this controversy? South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. Clowney made a powerful yet what for a long time has been considered a clean hit. Smith's helmet was knocked off, but Clowney had not targeted or made contact with Smith's head. In fact Clowney struck Smith in the chest with arms wrapped around him, driving Smith to the ground.
However, ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads said he would have flagged Clowney for targeting on the play and under the new rule it would have resulted in Clowney's ejection.
Interestingly enough, Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo said at Big Ten media days that the Clowney hit was legal in his eyes.
So even officials aren't on the same page yet.
What makes the rule even more confusing is that a hit can be reviewed. If a player is deemed to have not committed an ejection-worthy hit then the player can stay in the game, but his team will still be penalized 15 yards. So in short, if the referee makes a mistake your favorite team will still lose 15 yards after the review.
For Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson the new rule still isn't that clear to him.
"I still don't really understand it fully," Carson said. "It's one of those things that we're just going to have to work with and kind of figure out. It's definitely a tough situation and obviously being a linebacker and being like I feel like I have a bit of a throwback style, I don't like it but it's the way the game is now and we have to accept the changes that go along with the game."
For now fans will just have to keep their fingers crossed and hope their favorite defensive players keeps their heads down.