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WSU’s Leach Points Out The Major Flaw In New Penalty For Targeting

gfx - they said itA week ago today, I wrote that the new ejection portion of the college football’s targeting rule “will be the most controversial rule change in ages.”  This came on the heels of the ACC’s head of officials stating that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would have likely been tossed from the Outback Bowl if the current rule had been in play when he made his highlight reel tackle.  You know the play.  The one we’ve all seen 1,000,000 times.

Now, in a must-read piece from USA Today, Washington State head coach Mike Leach provides a very quick, simple explanation of exactly what’s wrong with the current rule:


“Rules, in order to be effective, have to be enforceable and you’ve got to be able to see (the infraction).  If I get these guys across the room and I have them run full-speed at each other, and I ask you in a split-second to tell me which one lowered their head first, I’ll be you can’t do it.  So I think that is a huge problem.”


Yes.  Yes it is.

The Clowney hit — oh, alright, let’s go ahead and show it again — has been viewed and reviewed by officials from darn near every major conference and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus yet on whether such a tackle will be viewed as legal or illegal moving forward.


Jadeveon Clowney's Top Play: Hit vs. Michigan


For those who hope the replay booth will help to prevent controversial targeting calls and ejections during games, keep in mind that ACC top cop Doug Rhoads and SEC director of officials Steve Shaw were both looking at replays of the same tackle above, yet those two experienced officials came to completely different conclusions regarding its legality.

By the end of the upcoming season, the new targeting rule — due to the ejection penalty — will be the most talked about football rule change in a generation or more.  So be prepared to hear talkshow caller after talkshow caller complain that their guy was booted from a game while umpteen similar hits — which will be listed — delivered by an opponent went uncalled.

And judging by the cloudy nature of the rule, it’s entirely possible that those talkshow callers will be right, too.


Ubiquitous GA Alum
Ubiquitous GA Alum

Should have assessed the LT a penalty for leaving his RB defenseless.


John, I haven't read anywhere why the running back that Clowney hit is considered a defenseless player.  Can you clear that up?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator


It would appear that anyone being "targeted" for a hit above their shoulders will now be considered "defenseless."  If the NCAA is wise -- and it's not -- it would provide every school in the country with a video explainer to run before every single game on each team's video scoreboard.  Otherwise, it's going to be a confusing mess.  Scratch that.  It'll be a confusing mess anyway.  Without a weekly reminder of exactly what the rule is, it's going to be a MORE confusing mess.

Thanks for reading the site,



@John at MrSEC @gregpomeroy1 Thanks.  It seems like there was something about receivers during a catch and quarterbacks after an interception being considered defenseless.   It is going to be a mess.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@gregpomeroy1 @John at MrSEC 

No, there was a "defenseless player" component to the rule, but I think that "defenseless" part takes a backseat to any hit involving helmet collisions.  For example, a running back who lowers his head and butts his helmet into a linebacker's chest can be flagged and booted.  Clearly, a linebacker isn't defenseless.  

The rule is vague.  Very vague.  It's no longer as clear as it used to be.  Thus different top officials giving different takes on the very same Clowney hit.  

It will be an absolute nightmare this fall. 



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