When the new targeting rules were first made official for 2013, they were politely applauded for their increased emphasis on player safety ... and roundly criticized for the possibility that overzealous officials would begin ejecting players left and right rather than letting common sense dictate their calls.
The critics had it right, as it turned out, as all three early SEC games sawhave seen a targeting ejection -- all upheld on replay -- ranging from "highly questionable" to "absurd." One guess where this ejection of Georgia's Ray Drew (No. 47) falls on that spectrum:
In token defense of the officials, yes, Drew's facemask does make contact with Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuel's helmet, and he does follow through with extended arms. A 15-yard roughing-the-passer flag might not be an "easy call," but it would certainly be defensible.
But an ejection? For that? A play in which Drew is clearly not making any attempt to injure, in which he doesn't lower his helmet (that he makes contact with Carta-Samuels' helmet is as much down to the difference in the players' heights as anything), in which even a 15-yard flag doesn't seem necessary?
But at least Drew had plenty of company Saturday. Here's the play which saw Ohio State's All-American cornerback candidate Bradley Roby ejected against Iowa:
That's a slow-motion replay, so the hit was a little more violent than it appears, and as with Drew, Roby did make some contact with the Iowa player's helmet. Still: Roby leads with his shoulder, doesn't even leave his feet, and clearly isn't intending to take a killshot to the receiver's head. If you want to flag him for 15 yards in the effort to encourage lower tackling and make the game safer, fine ... but does anyone, anywhere who loves the sport of college football believes that play should be worthy of an ejection?
CBS's Tracy Wolfson doesn't think so:
That's 3 targeting ejections now in the SEC today #somethingsgottachange— Tracy Wolfson (@tracywolfson) October 19, 2013
Kicking Drew and Roby out of their games for these plays is madness, plain and simple, and officials must start using much, much greater discretion in making this call. College football can -- it must -- find a way to balance player safety with fairness to players who are simply trying to play the game. And the current targeting rules clearly aren't providing that balance.
Drew GIF via @corkgaines