There was no shortage of positive stories to come out of Auburn's "A-Day" spring game last Saturday -- the record crowd, the emotional final rolling of the legendary Toomer's Corner oak trees, a football program that appeared to have found its footing again after last year's 3-9 debacle.
But there was also one surprising negative -- Tigers defensive back Jonathon Mincy's third-quarter ejection from the spring game due to his hit on a teammate, junior wideout Dimitri Reese. It won't go down in the record books, but Mincy might unofficially be the first player ejected under the NCAA's new stricter rules for targeting.
Did Mincy's hit meet the definition, though? Here's the video:
There's little question that the severity of Mincy's hit is unnecessary within the context of a spring game (Gus Malzahn said the play was "not good, no doubt") or that the contact to Reese's head would draw a penalty flag 10 times out of 10. (Though not as egregious on replay as the announcers in the clip describe it to be, Mincy's brief celebration over forcing the incompletion isn't something Malzahn was probably pleased about, either.)
But on replay, the contact is clearly not helmet-to-helmet. Mincy leads with his shoulder and extends an arm. Though the NCAA rule simply calls for an ejection for "targeting and contacting defenseless players above the shoulders," much of the discussion surrounding the safety issue has focused on helmet-to-helmet hits; does the NCAA still want players ejected even when they're not lowering their heads?
Maybe so, especially given that Reese certainly met the definition of "defenseless." But for most fans, an ejection is a serious enough matter that Mincy's hit might illustrate why asking officials to make calls in such a relatively gray area might cause more than few headaches.