July 17, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
HOOVER, Ala. - Florida safety Dominique Easley frowned at the question and shook his head in disgust.
"They're making us play flag football," he snorted.
All-American South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney made his feelings clear, too.
"I don't like it," he said. "At all."
Neither of them has a vote. In an effort to reduce concussions, the college football rulesmakers have made it costly for a player to be called for targeting, which is defined as hitting a defenseless player above the shoulders.
Steve Shaw, in his third year as the Southeastern Conference coordinator of officials, spent more than 20 years as an official on the field. He said Wednesday at SEC Media Days it is the most significant rules change he has seen.
"It has an impact on the game and is very, very important," Shaw said.
Players called for targeting will be ejected from games. If the foul occurs in the first half, an offending player will have to sit out the remainder of the game. If it occurs in the second half, he will have to sit out the remainder of that game and the first half of the next.
All targeting foul calls will be reviewed. If a call is overruled, the player will remain in the game but the 15-yard penalty will stand.
"Instant replay is going to play a big part in this," Shaw said. "We have to be right 100 percent of the time."
Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy got first-hand understanding of the new rule when he was ejected from Auburn's A-Day game. Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said players are going to have to be aware of the consequences of now-illegal hits.
"The new rule, I don't know if it's appropriate or not," Johnson said, "but it's real stiff."
Johnson said he expects to see the rule come into play most often on pass plays. It was a hit on an incomplete pass that got Mincy ejected.
"When the ball goes off a receiver's hands, they're going to allow very little contact," Johnson said. "If you have contact and you follow through on it, you're in danger of getting a penalty and being ejected from the game."
Shaw said the definition of a defenseless player has been expanded. Among the changes are that, on an interception, a quarterback is considered a defenseless player until the play is over. On punts, the punter is considered a defenseless player until the play is over. That doesn't mean they can't be blocked, but they can't be hit above the shoulders.
If there is doubt, Shaw said, officials will make the call. He said they are required by the rulebook to do that.
"The rulebook says that, when in question, it's a foul," Shaw said.
Shaw said it is up to coaches to teach their players what they can and can't do and up to players to execute properly. Officials, he said, then have to do their jobs.
"If player doesn't execute it properly, the official has to have the courage to put the flag on the ground," Shaw said. "We will do that."
Other significant rules changes for the 2013 season:
* If a player is injured in the last minute of the half or the game, there will be an automatic 10-second runoff on the clock.
* For an offense to spike the ball and get another play, there must be at least three seconds showing on the clock.
* If a player's helmet comes off, he can stay in the game if his team uses a timeout. Previously, a player who lost his helmet had to sit out one play.
* Replay officials can review the clock at the end of quarters in addition to the end of the half and the game.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: