Targeting ejections rise despite rule clarification

first_imgAs Eric Dungey was dragged down from behind, Central Michigan defensive lineman Mitch Stanitzek dropped his helmet and forearm into Dungey’s helmet and neck.Dungey lay on the turf face down, limp after being bent backward and hitting the ground.Fans yelled, “Throw him out! Throw him out!” before referees ejected Stanitzek for targeting. As Stanitzek left the field, fans booed him. The Mid-American Conference did not suspend the defensive end later in the week.The targeting rule that sent Stanitzek from the game was initially introduced in 2008, but didn’t develop into its current form until 2013. The rule comes into focus on plays like the one on Saturday, and is still emphasized to players by coaches and officials.After being largely criticized in 2013 after the rule was implemented in full, the NCAA cleaned it up before last season. Yet through two weeks in 2015, there were 19 targeting ejections, up from 14 from the first two weeks in 2014. Despite the changes, there is still a gray area in the call.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“You can tell if you’re a player, a coach or an official, if somebody’s taking a cheap shot as a player,” David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach and a member of the NCAA football rules committee said. “If that occurs, I think an ejection is appropriate. I think there are other penalties that fall under the category of unsportsmanlike, that it just kind of happened, bang bang.”From the time Dungey released the ball to the time Stanitzek drilled him took less than half a second. Stanitzek told the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun his head-to-head hit was unintentional.But the NCAA also finds itself at a crossroads of safety and entertainment, with one big hit potentially injuring a player’s spine. The rule was initially created to protect players’ safety, specifically on violent helmet-to-helmet collisions.Prior to 2013, players who hit above the shoulders were assessed a 15-yard penalty and nothing more. Now those players, depending on a review, could be ejected and suspended. Before last season, the ejection could be overturned during the review and the 15-yard penalty could be upheld. Now, both have to be upheld or overturned during the review process.“I think the way they’ve set the rule where they can review it, look at it and see it and fix the penalty, I think is good,” said Jimbo Fisher, Florida State’s head coach who also had a player thrown out for targeting this season.What officials looked for included four “key elements.” They look to see if the tackler goes beyond making a usual tackle, used the crown of his helmet, hit the head or neck area and whether the hit was on a defenseless player.With a spike in targeting calls, Fisher said maybe it’s time to refocus on fundamentals. When the rule was fixed to include an ejection in 2013, Fisher said he made sure he taught tackling, aiming points and not leading with the crown of the helmet.“We talk about not targeting helmet-to-helmet, understanding that we need to be, when we’re making those hits, conscious of where our contact is being made,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “The game and the rules have created a sense of needing to coach technique.”SU brings a referee in every season for the team to give players a heads up to what officials are looking for, Orange linebacker Zaire Franklin said. In that meeting, Franklin said the referee makes sure to stress the targeting rule.For now, all coaches can do is emphasize correct tackling techniques and players can listen to referees’ suggestions.“You can get kicked out of the game if you’re in the wrong place,” Franklin said. “We definitely talk about targeting all the time and just talk about playing hard …  but also playing smart and realizing one head-to-head hit and you’re out of the game and then you’re not helping anybody.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 24, 2015 at 9:02 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @ChrisLibonatilast_img

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