College football

Tougher high-hit penalty most scrutinized new rule

2013-08-18T19:00:00Z 2013-08-18T22:48:08Z Tougher high-hit penalty most scrutinized new ruleEric Olson AP College Football Writer nwitimes.com
August 18, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

Made in the name of player safety, the more stringent "targeting" rule in college football would appear to be something everybody can agree on.

The disagreement comes when the discussion turns to how it's enforced.

Targeting — purposely hitting an opponent above the shoulders — has been illegal since 2008. Starting this season, in addition to the 15-yard penalty, the offending player will be ejected.

The ejection can be overturned by replay officials if it's determined the player really didn't target. But — and it's a big but — the 15-yard penalty will stand regardless.

No doubt, defensive players are getting schooled on what constitutes targeting. But it's still a judgment call, with the official getting a split second to make or not make it.

What if the player being tackled makes a sudden and unexpected move or lowers his head, causing the "offending" player to unintentionally hit him above the shoulders? What if, as in the case of Jadeveon Clowney's big hit against Michigan in the Outback Bowl, a defender hits an opponent in the chest and then bounces upward into the helmet?

It's not unreasonable to think sometime, somewhere a targeting call — right or wrong — will be the turning point in a huge game.

More on targeting and other new rules this season:

1) WATCH YOUR HEAD: Hits above the shoulders are among the most dangerous, and the powers-that-be know they have to take a stand to make the game safer. There were 99 targeting penalties called in major-college games last season that would have justified an ejection under the new rule, according to the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel. Officials will attempt to spot players who initiate above-the-shoulder contact with a defenseless player with the crown of his helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. Officials especially will be on the lookout for guys who initiate a tackle by launching, or leaving the feet to thrust upward and forward to hit the head or neck area.

2) BELOW THE BELT: The rule governing blocking below the waist has been adjusted because it was found to be unevenly enforced and difficult to teach to officials. Now low blocks delivered from in front of the defender anywhere on the field are legal and low blocks from the side or back are not. Previously, whether a player could block below the waist depended on his position at the snap, whether he was stationary or which direction he was moving after the snap.

3) DRESS CODE: The color of the number on a jersey must clearly contrast with the color of the rest of the jersey. The numbers also must measure at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be of one solid color. The rule applies only to FBS teams in 2013. FCS, Division II and Division III teams will have to comply in 2014.

4) WARDROBE CHANGE: If a player is switching positions during a game, requiring him to change jersey numbers, he must report this to the referee, who will announce the change. Also, two players who play the same position at different times in the game can't wear the same number. For example, two quarterbacks on the same team can't wear No. 12.

5) 10-SECOND RUNOFF: If a player is injured in the last minute of a half — and this is the only reason for stopping the clock — the opponent can choose to have 10 seconds run off the game clock. The injured player's team can preserve the 10 seconds by using a timeout.

6) CLOCK MANAGEMENT: Three seconds is now the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds are left, there is time for the offense to run only one more play. Also, instant replay can now be used to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.

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