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The SEC’s Take On Helmet-To-Helmet Hits

Earlier today we posted video of two plays, both involving helmet-to-helmet contact in SEC action.

The first play involved Georgia’s Quintavious Harrow.  Over the weekend, he lowered his head and collided with Auburn kick returner Tre Mason.  The second play involved Arkansas’ Marquel Wade and occurred two weeks ago.  Wade has given a full-game suspension for his hit on Vanderbilt punt returner Jonathan Krause.

The two plays were comparable — in our view — because both involved a good bit of helmet-to-helmet contact.  (And with the NFL doling out fines for all manner of helmet-to-helmet hits, questions exist among many fans regarding what is and isn’t a helmet-to-helmet foul in the college ranks.)  While the plays were comparable, we stated that we did not feel Harrow’s hit was nearly as flagrant as Wade’s because a) Harrow’s hit was part of an all over collision and b) Mason was not a defenseless player.

In Wade’s case, the collision consisted almost entirely of the helmet-on-helmet blast and Krause had his eyes turned skyward searching for the punt, the very definition of a “defenseless” player.

We reached out to the SEC for the league’s take on these types of plays in general, and chief PR agent Charles Bloom responded as follows:

“These hits are a point of emphasis for the conference and (have) been a national issue.  The league is concerned about the player’s safety and strives to be consistent in the rulings.  The SEC reviews these hits each week to determine if there are any additional penalties. 

According to the rulebook, helmet-to-helmet contact, in itself, is not a penalty.  If you notice during games, the referee will use terms such as ‘targeting a defenseless player’ or ‘using the crown of helmet to initiate contact.’”

The rules specifically dealing with these hits are as follows:

Rule 9-1 article 3 – No player shall target an initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.  When in question, it is a foul.

Rule 9-1 article 4 – No player shall target an initiated contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.  When in question, it is a foul.

Let’s look at the hit by Harrow again:

Did Harrow lead with the crown of his helmet?  If you pause the play, then yes, it appears he did lower his head which caused the top of his helmet to strike Mason’s helmet.

But did he target and initiate contact against Mason specifically with the crown of his helmet?  It doesn’t appear so.  In fact, it looks like poor tackling technique — lowering the head endangers the tackler as much as the player being tackled — as Harrow dropped his shoulder (and head) and went for the big hit rather than the safer wrap-up.

As for Rule 9-1-4, was Mason defenseless?  Again, we say no.  He had caught the ball, was returning it, and Harrow came into him from the side and front.  This was not a blindside hit.

Nor was it anywhere near as vicious as Wade’s hit two weeks ago.

However, with the NFL (with its fines) and college conferences making helmet-to-helmet hits “a point of emphasis,” the subtle nuances between different hits will no doubt continue to be scrutinized.

And for many, the difference between a penalty and a fair play will ultimately just come down to which color jersey a player is wearing.



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After a run, Arkansas quarterback, Tyler Wilson, went into a typical quarterback slide to get down. A Tennesse player hit Wilson in the side of the helmet with the top of his helmet after Wilson was sliding. This is the way it looked live, and on the big screen replay. I haven't seen a slow motion TV replay of it. If anyone saw this and knows why it wan't a helmet to helmet hit, I would like to know the difference. Maybe there was some comment by the TV announcers.

I'm not commenting one way or the other. I'm just trying to understand why.

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