WVU players get word on 'targeting' rules
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A couple of weeks ago at the Big 12 football media days in Dallas, Karl Joseph entertained more than his share of questions about college football's new targeting rules and the penalties that go with it.
West Virginia's sophomore safety did so not necessarily because he has a reputation as a dirty player, but because he's a big hitter who plays in the kind of wide-open spaces where big hits most frequently occur. At the time, Joseph seemed confused by the questions, primarily because the issue hadn't really been brought up to him by West Virginia's coaches.
Well, Monday the issue was finally tackled, so to speak. Prior to WVU's fourth practice of fall camp, a group of Big 12 officials conducted a seminar with the Mountaineers on rules both old and new. A big chunk of the closed session was to address those new targeting rules.
While WVU coach Dana Holgorsen admits he's tired of talking about the subject, he understands it's a necessary evil. The targeting rule this season is far too important to ignore.
"Our players, our coaches don't know what to expect,'' Holgorsen said prior to the session with the officials. "They have examples and we have examples [on tape]. We'll talk about it and see if we can get on the same page.''
In essence, the rules about targeting are not much different than before. Launching into a player, aiming at the head or using the helmet as a weapon are forbidden. Much of it is judgment on the part of the officials.
"Some guys are going to agree with it, some guys are not going to agree with it,'' Holgorsen said. "They'll do their best to explain it, we will ask questions and then we'll line up and play ball. There are probably going to be some times it gets called and we agree with it and sometimes we don't, but that's no different than holding. Sometimes we get called for holding and we don't agree with it.''
True, but a holding penalty doesn't carry an automatic ejection and potential disqualification for part of the next game. That's the big change this season.
For instance, if a player is ejected for targeting in the first half of a game, he's ejected for the remainder of that game. If he's ejected in the second half, he can't return to that game and must sit out the first half of the next game. The ejection qualifies as a penalty reviewable by the instant replay official, although the 15-yard penalty that goes with it is not reviewable.
"We obviously have to understand the rule and what's going to happen if they call it,'' Holgorsen said.
Again, Joseph figures to be a key figure as far as West Virginia is concerned. Even though Holgorsen stresses that Joseph shouldn't be singled out when talking about the rule, he fully understands that big hitters like the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder will be most susceptible to having it called. Holgorsen even said he will have his video staff put together clips of Joseph's biggest hits from last season and have them evaluated by big 12 supervisor of officials Walt Anderson.
That said, Holgorsen hopes he's being overly cautious and that the rule won't have the kind of dire consequences some believe.
"I don't think it will be as big a deal as people are making it out to be right now, much like the celebration rule was two years ago and the helmet rule last year,'' Holgorsen said. "Is it going to happen? Yeah, it's going to happen. But in the grand scheme of things it's probably going to happen minimally.''
Where things could get dicey is if it happens to high-profile players at critical moments.
"If it happens to a guy who is not a high-profile guy like Karl Joseph, then we probably won't make that big of a deal about it,'' Holgorsen said. "But if it happens in game one in the second half against William & Mary [to a guy like Joseph] and they call it and they eject him and he's not playing [the second game] against Oklahoma in the first half, then people can make a pretty big deal about it.
"The chances of that happening, I think, are probably minimal if we can do our job and get them to understand the rule and teach them the proper technique and what the consequences are going to be and all that stuff. We're going to do our best to educate them. I don't think it's going to be something that we talk about much throughout the year.''
Of course, the new rules aren't simply arbitrary ones to penalize players or teams. The reasoning behind the rule is sound, given the emphasis on safety and concussions in the game.
Still, there comes a point when it can be overblown.
"I'm tired of talking about it, I know that,'' Holgorsen said. "I'm tired of talking about it so much because if you talk about it so much and focus on it so much and we curb their aggression, I'm not going to be very happy. It's football. It's supposed to be aggression. It's supposed to be big hits. That's kind of one thing that's great about the game. I think everybody would agree about that.
"But for safety reasons I understand why the rule is out there and we need to try to make sure we get guys that are not trying to leave their feet and trying to spear people in the head.''
Molina is a walk-on who wasn't scheduled to join the team until rosters can be expanded when classes begin on Aug. 19. But with only 102 players in camp - three short of the NCAA limit - and only one kicker, Holgorsen apparently decided to bring in another. Molina joins Josh Lambert as the only kickers.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.