MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When last we encountered Karl Joseph, he was almost dizzy from a day of being questioned in Dallas on the topic of targeting.
It was the hot topic at the Big 12 media days in late July and Joseph, West Virginia's big-hitting sophomore safety, was, well, being targeted. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know what he thought of the new rules and their potential impact on the way he plays the game.
Joseph was at a loss for answers, mainly because he had little idea what his inquisitors were talking about.
"It's really unfair to Karl to be asked these questions,'' his coach, Dana Holgorsen, said at those same meetings. "He doesn't know what you're talking about.''
Indeed, Joseph had not yet been privy to any sort of thorough explanation of the targeting rules, which in essence open a player to possible ejection for dangerous hits. In general, that means using the head as a weapon, aiming for the head of a ball carrier or receiver or generally targeting a defenseless player. Although subject to instant-replay review, a player can be ejected in the first half for the remainder of a game or in the second half for the rest of that game and the first half of the next.
Well, in the four weeks since then, Joseph has been schooled. He now knows what all players know about the rule, which is basically that it is going to be a judgment call on the part of officials. He's been shown what is and isn't legal and has realized, like everyone, that the fine line between the two is open to a lot of interpretation.
The bottom line, though, is that he doesn't think it will change his game much at all.
"I understand it a little bit more. Coach Holgorsen had some Big 12 refs come in and explain it a little bit to us,'' Joseph said. "I don't think it will affect me like people think. It's just about being smarter when the receiver is defenseless.''
Of course, no defender thinks it will affect him, and that might be a naïve approach to take.
"Right now I think it's an issue for every defensive player in college football,'' WVU safeties coach Tony Gibson said.
Indeed, if the weight of making certain that Joseph's hits are clean is on anyone other than himself, it is on Gibson and the rest of West Virginia's defensive coaches. It's not that they have to teach things differently, but they do have to add at least another element to the formula, the one that warns of what could get a player ejected.