Targeting comes into focus at media days

CHICAGO -- Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in January’s Outback Bowl is still receiving a ton of attention. The reasoning, though, is now due to its legality.

With the NCAA focusing on potential ejection for targeting -- described as a player who “target(s) and contact(s) defenseless players above the shoulders” -- one of the premier hits of last season is now back in focus.

Smith told ESPN.com earlier this year he had no problem with the hit. On Wednesday, neither did Hoke, who said he did not feel it was a dirty play.

“No. And I’m a defensive coach,” Hoke said. “A guy makes a great play and a great move and Smitty hopped right back up. So it didn’t look that way to me.”

He and other Big Ten coaches, though, have some concerns about the targeting rules and the subjectiveness of what could be labeled as targeting, leading to ejections.

Both Hoke and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned the potential of replay being used to determine ejections -- think something like what college basketball does with flagrant elbows to the head -- to make sure calls are correct.

The issue, though, is a serious one for coaches.

“The targeting issue is obviously something we have to do a great job of saving the game of football, to be honest with you,” Hoke said. “There’s some real vicious hits that have been taken and delivered.

“It’s one of those issues where replay is probably going to need to be involved. I’d hate to see a young man get alleged for targeting and he didn’t and the consequences of what happens to his season.”

Most of the league’s coaches who were asked about targeting said they stressed it during spring football as a means of educating players on what they can and cannot do. Hoke said it won’t change, though, how he teaches tackling.

However, with things happening at high speeds on the field, some of these types of hits are inevitable, which leads to the concern from coaches.

“It’s going to be pretty subjective,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “And I don’t think it’s an easy thing to call. And in my opinion it’s going a little bit overboard right now. And some things I’ve seen on TV and different examples that they’ve shown, you know, like even as a coach watching it on TV, I haven’t quite agreed with some of the things they’ve talked about.

“But I understand where it’s coming from. It’s about the safety of the players, and we’re all for that. We just have to make sure that we’re not messing with the integrity of the game or the sport and how it’s supposed to be played.”

Whether it is or not will start to show up in a month.