Targeting rule draws mixed reviews from Big Ten

Several Big Ten coaches said they support the attempt to increase player safety, but the subjectivity of the rule is a concern.

UNLV defensive lineman Mark Garrick slams into Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray Aug. 30 in Las Vegas. Gray completed 17 of 30 passes for 269 yards, but he consistently overthrew wide-open receivers.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

UNLV defensive lineman Mark Garrick slams into Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray Aug. 30 in Las Vegas. Gray completed 17 of 30 passes for 269 yards, but he consistently overthrew wide-open receivers.

Charlie Armitz

CHICAGO — The NCAA’s controversial “targeting rule” to protect defenseless players drew mixed reviews Wednesday at the first of two Big Ten media days.

The rule requires that players “who target and contact defenseless players above the shoulder” be ejected starting this season. Targeting will also incur a 15-yard penalty as it has in previous seasons.

Several Big Ten head coaches, including Minnesota’s Jerry Kill, said they support the attempt to increase player safety.

“We want to take care of the players and kids,” said Kill, the Gophers’ third-year coach. “That’s our job as coaches at all times.”

Players who are ejected for targeting in the second half of a game must also miss the first half of their next game.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald likened the change to hockey, which he said has become more athletic and less physical in recent years.

“If you’re defenseless, you should be protected,” he said.

Football is taught as a physical sport, and many players learn from a young age to tackle near the shoulder area. The tackles they’ve made for years may or may warrant an ejection under the new rule — depending on the officials.

“It’s going to be pretty subjective,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. “And in my opinion, it’s going a little bit overboard right now.”

Pelini expressed concern that the rule changes would hurt the integrity of the game.

Gophers senior safety Brock Vereen called the rule change a “bummer.” He said defensive players will need to stay aggressive, even if they risk ejection.

“Going into a play, you can’t be thinking about where you’re going to hit ‘em,” Vereen said. “You’ve just got to hit ‘em.

“I think I speak for a lot of defensive guys when I say it’s not going to affect how we play.”