CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As North Carolina turns its attention to Georgia, wide receiver Mack Hollins prepares to miss the first half of his senior season opener due to a targeting foul committed in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December.
With eight minutes to play in the third quarter, UNC quarterback Marquise Williams connected with A-back Austin Proehl on a swing pass into the left flat for a one-yard gain. Hollins, who was lined up as the outside receiver on the play side, pushed up field five yards at the snap before turning back to block for Proehl and making contact with Baylor safety Chance Waz in the head and neck area.
The game officials flagged Hollins for targeting, which resulted not only in an ejection, but also in a suspension for the opening half of 2016. NCAAA rule 9-1-4 states “if the foul occurs in the second half of the last game of the season, players with remaining eligibility shall serve the suspension during the postseason or the first game of the following season.”
Targeting (Rule 9-1-3) is defined as making forcible contact against an opponent with the crown of the helmet and is expanded in Rule 9-1-4 to include no contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. Former ACC Coordinator of Football Officiating Doug Rhoads categorized the hit during the ESPN broadcast as a blind-side block, which is one of the nine indicators of a defenseless player.
His absence in the first half against Georgia on Sept. 3 has prompted more concern on special teams than at wide receiver.
“Mack’s a starter on four special teams,” head coach Larry Fedora said on his radio show on Tuesday night. “We’ve had to change our depth in all four of those units to make sure a guy’s going to be there for the first half, and he’s got to have a backup in the first half if he gets hurt, so you’ve really prepared three guys for one position.”
UNC wide receivers coach Gunter Brewer teaches his position group to play all three receiver positions, thereby allowing for more options to fill the temporary void at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Hollins, who caught 30 passes for 745 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015, will be allowed to participate in pregame warmup activities, in accordance with Rule 2-27-12-c. Prior to kickoff, he must leave the field of play under team supervision until halftime.
When asked if he would like to give his opinion on the targeting call, Fedora replied, “No, it’s not going to do anybody any good for me to give my opinion.”