UK coaches weigh in on ‘targeting’ changes

At Southeastern Conference Media Days, the league’s coordinator of officials called the new targeting rule “the most significant rule change in my tenure ever. It has an impact on our game and is very, very important.”

The targeting foul itself hasn’t really changed, Charles Shaw said. It’s still when a player hits a defenseless player above the shoulders.

But the new rules expand the definition of a defenseless player and they call for immediate ejections for players flagged for targeting.

“Coaches have to teach head-up tackling, and players have to execute what they’re taught,” Shaw explained two weeks ago.

The fear among some coaches is that the new rule is too subjective, that there are those problematic gray areas.

UK Coach Mark Stoops, who has coached defense for 20-plus years, said the new targeting rules present problems.

“Obviously we want to take injury out of our game as much as we can, but that’s a sensitive situation for us defensive guys because the last thing I want to start teaching is for guys to (tackle) very low,” he said, noting that it can hurt wide receivers’ knees or maybe cause neck injuries for the tackler himself.

“The bottom line is we’re going to do our best and teach them to go a little lower, but still keep head up, wrap it up and just use their technique and be sensitive, certainly to attacking the head.”

D.J. Eliot said the constant rules changes make his job as a defensive coordinator more difficult.

“I’m just going to have to change how we tackle and live with it,” he said. “It’s part of the game.”

There have been discussions nationwide about whether or not that monster hit by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney on Michigan’s Vincent Smith last season would have been illegal.

Eliot said that is discouraging, especially from his perspective.

“There’s going to be a lot of play on defense where there’s nothing the defensive player can do,” Eliot said. “You know, two guys run into each other and one is going backwards and the one going backwards is an offensive player, so now the defensive guy targeted. There’s a lot we can’t do, but we’re going to adjust as best we can to try to handle the new rule.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at
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