Because of a new rule, the most talked-about hit from last season is again being debated, discussed and examined anew. Eric LeGrand, a man familiar with the violent ends of an otherwise wonderful sport, would like a word.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples reported on the new targeting rule that has college coaches pondering how officials could possibly enforce a rule they see as colored with subjectivity.
According to the report, officials are likely to call out a player for targeting—a violation that warrants an ejection—if they see things like players launching toward their opponent's head or neck, lowering the head before the point of contact or "leading with the helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow into the head or neck area."
This raised the obvious example from last season—a hit fans can almost feel when they watch the replay.
To jog that memory of yours, here is Clowney laying out Michigan's Vincent Smith.
It was hard, brutal and in some cases hard to watch—even though the entire football world played and replayed that moment roughly a thousand times before feeling satisfied.
Staples writes that to some, that hit would have caused not just an unforgettable highlight for fans, but also an ejection for Clowney.
Need a better example? How about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl? Clowney made what for years has been considered a clean hit. Smith's helmet popped off, but not because Clowney targeted Smith's head. Clowney struck Smith in the chest. Monday, ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads said he would have flagged Clowney for targeting on the play -- which, under the current rule, would have gotten Clowney tossed.
ESPN has a report on some words and consternation coming from SEC coaches reacting to the fact Clowney's hit could get some players ejected in the near future.
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier:
Our head of officials, Steve Shaw, told us it was a clean hit because he hit him in the chest and sort of ricocheted up and knocked his helmet off. I think what they're trying to prevent, and I agree, is when a player launches himself helmet to helmet into a guy. But that wasn't the case with Jadeveon's hit.
Arkansas' Bret Bielema:
I'm part of the rules committee, and they showed that hit, and everybody agreed it was a clean hit. So if that guy [Rhoads] is officiating one of our games, hopefully he's going to be reprimanded before then.
The game continues to evolve, and that includes changes that will rile and polarize fans. Only time will tell if the new rules will make a violent game any safer.
LeGrand is one man who can attest that horrible things take place on the field no matter what kind of rules are imposed on athletes.
Sometimes a booming hit is legal, even if it moves a nation to cringe the moment they see it play out on screen.
At least, that's what LeGrand seems to think, and I am inclined to believe him.
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