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Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Players aware of targeting penalty, ejection

By Edward Aschoff

Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins knew it was coming. He didn't know when, but the senior sensed that, considering how aggressively he and his teammates in Florida's secondary play, one of them would be subject to the new targeting penalty. It was bound to happen in a high-collision sport with such a physical unit.

"We knew it would be one of us," Watkins said. "We just didn't know which one it was [going to be.]"

Three games in, Watkins' premonition materialized, as sophomore safety Brian Poole was flagged and ejected for targeting after he hit Tennessee tight end Brendan Downs high while Downs was in a defenseless position with 13:41 remaining in Florida's eventual 31-17 win over the Vols.

The ejection triggered bellowing boos from the fans filling Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and drew ire from Florida coach Will Muschamp, who has been critical of the new ejection rule since its inception.

"I don't have any problem with the call. I've got a problem with the rule," Muschamp said. "Brian Poole was not trying to flagrantly hurt anyone. It's a bang-bang play. He's trying to go up, the ball's high, he's going in high. It's a bang-bang play."

The rule states that players who target and hit defenseless opponents above the shoulders will be ejected and a 15-yard penalty will be assessed. If the foul occurs in the first half of a game, the player is ejected for the remainder of that game. If it happens in the second half or overtime, the player is ejected and must sit during the first half of the next game.

The fouls are reviewable through video replay, meaning ejections can be overturned, but the penalties still stand.

To Muschamp, targeting plays should be reviewed by conference commissioners and league officials after games to determine whether the hit was malicious. Then a suspension can be given.

The general consensus from coaches is that the penalty is fine, but the ejections and penalties for overturned ejections are issues.

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