For the second time in as many weeks, the SEC has suspended a player for a "dangerous and flagrant" hit.
South Carolina senior safety D.J. Swearinger will miss the Missouri game this Saturday after being suspended for his hit on UAB's Patrick Hearn last weekend. Swearinger was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul. The side of his helmet collided with Hearn's facemask after Swearinger launched himself into Hearn while breaking up a pass.
The NCAA rule book states that “no player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.” The SEC has made it a point of emphasis to crack down on such hits and suspended Ole Miss' Trae Elston last week for a similar hit.
The idea is to protect players who never see the hit coming and especially when the hit is directed above the shoulders and to the head area.
Now that the SEC has gone down this road two of the first three weeks, the important thing will be consistency. Everybody's going to be watching, and any time there's a big hit to a player's shoulders or higher, people are going to be calling for a suspension.
Already, those in the South Carolina camp are wondering what the difference was in Swearinger's hit and the hit Vanderbilt's that Andre Hal delivered to South Carolina's Justice Cunningham in the opener. Hal was penalized on the play for a personal foul, and Cunningham's helmet was knocked off. However, Hal wasn't suspended.
With Swearinger out this Saturday, the Gamecocks will have to shuffle their secondary. He was their most experienced player and biggest playmaker in the defensive backfield. He had a 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown against UAB and intercepted a pass against East Carolina.
The Gamecocks were hopeful of possibly getting senior cornerback Akeem Auguste back for this game, although that's probably a long shot. The Kentucky game may be more realistic. Auguste missed the first three games after undergoing surgery on his thigh muscle in August. He was a starter at cornerback before he was injured and had also played some at safety.
Freshman T.J. Gurley is probably next up this week and will get a lot of work at free safety. Gurley played in each of the first three games and collected six tackles.