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Enforcement of new targeting rule will be controversial

  • By Dan Parr NFL.com
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CHICAGO -- Whether it's his relationship with JAY Z or his bone-rattling hit from last season's Outback Bowl, South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney is having a hard time avoiding controversy this week.

Clowney plays in the SEC, but his hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in January bubbled to the surface at the ACC Kickoff earlier this week, and Thursday, we helped it make its way into the discussion at Big Ten media days.

The conversation was sparked by ACC officiating supervisor Doug Rhoads, who said Monday he would have flagged Clowney for "targeting" on the Smith hit. This season, thanks to a modification, the flag for "targeting" will result in an immediate ejection that could be reviewed by officials with instant replay.

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Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo had a different take from Rhoads' when we asked him about it Thursday. He said he did not think Clowney's hit was a foul.

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"I think it does point to the issue of how difficult this is going to be even if you have replay involved," said Mike Pereira, the former vice president of officiating for the NFL and current rules analyst at FOX Sports.

Pereira said he would like to think the Clowney hit would not draw a flag, but it might -- referees have been instructed to throw the flag when in doubt on potential "targeting" fouls.

"I think you take that identical (Clowney) play and have it happen 10 times and I think probably two times the flag is going to come," Pereira said. "When the flag comes, it's the automatic ejection.

"Will replay overturn it? Do they have absolutely conclusive proof that there wasn't any contact to the head or the neck? I don't think they do. To me, it's one of those at-risk plays that could lead to a penalty and an ejection."

Coaches have voiced concern this week that the "targeting" rule might be too subjective and make referees cautious about throwing the flag with an ejection attached to it.

Carollo did not exactly share those sentiments.

"It's not a concern," he said. "It doesn't keep me up at night. I don't know what's going to happen. We've been training -- we all nodded 'Yes these are fouls, yes we're going to throw them out' and so on, but we'll see.

"Can we execute the plan and can we execute it consistently?"

The whole idea of making the penalty for "targeting" more severe was to serve the players -- the expectation is there will be fewer illegal hits over time as players suffer and see others suffering the consequences of such a hit.

The problem is defining what is illegal, and it could get sorted out in controversial fashion this fall.

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