Targeting Offers Judgment Concern

Before Johnny Manziel, much of the summer conversation regarding college football revolved around the new targeting rule, which is not so much new. There is a slight adjustment to the definition of unprotected players, which the rule is designed to protect, and a major change to the possible repercussions of being flagged for the penalty.

Alabama found itself on the talk show hot seat last year when Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray threw an interception. The moment that ball was caught by a Crimson Tide defender, Bama players became offensive players and Georgia players -- including Murray -- became defensive players. Murray moved towards the Tider returning the ball and was blocked out of the play. There was no penalty against Alabama, although arm chair quarterbacks -- including Southeastern Conference Supervisor of Officials Steve Shaw -- said Alabama should have been penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

A 15-yard penalty is one thing. In 2013, there will be several changes. For one, the rules protecting a quarterback are more stringent. More important than that, a player flagged for targeting is subject to ejection and possible ineligibility for the following game.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban discussed the situation following the Crimson Tide's Thursday practice and admitted "I see lots of stuff going on around there that makes me nervous about how are all these judgments going to get made and is everybody going to be on the same page.

"I'm looking forward to Steve Shaw coming over. I've had meetings with him before and I think I understand it. I don't think public perception is exactly the way I understand it. So I'm hopeful that the officials are going to make those decisions in the game are sort of on the same page as we're on."

Alabama's hit on Murray was far overshadowed by a tremendous hit by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. During the off-season, the supervisor of officials of the ACC said that tackle would result in ejection. Although he backed up later, the judgment got Saban's attention.

"When I see Clowney's play on TV, and they say he would have been suspended for that, that's not the way it was explained to me," Saban said. "Look, I'm all for player safety. I don't want to hit anybody in the head and I don't want our players to hit anybody in the head and I don't want anybody to go helmet-to-helmet on any play. But the rule is to protect an unprotected player. Running back running the ball up the middle, he's not unprotected. Is that correct?

" As a coach, I'm concerned. As a player, I think the players are concerned because the players don't want to do anything that is going to hurt another player. They don't want to do anything that's going to get a penalty or get them rejected or whatever.

"I think as a coach we want to be able to find that so it's not an issue for a player in terms of what he's thinking about with the players."

Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri, known as a hard-hitter, said the new rule hasn't affected in him practice, but "Coach Saban has told me I have to be smart with how I approach tackles, how I tackle people up in the air going for a football, and we worked on that in the summer and it's something we've focused on.

"As long as you have your head up and looking at the guy's numbers and do everything you've been taught since Pop Warner and like my dad (former Tide Linebackers Coach Sal Sunseri), then you should be okay."

Sunseri knows something about a helmet-to-helmet hit. He said on his first scrimmage, he looked across the line and saw Trent Richardson. "I thought, 'I hope he doesn't get the ball.' "

Richardson got the ball. Sunseri said, "I hit him, but it broke my helmet."

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