Urban Meyer: Targeting needs review

Updated: October 21, 2013, 5:37 PM ET
By Austin Ward | ESPN.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer remains a proponent of making football safer, but the Ohio State coach doesn't appear to be a supporter of the stiff penalty tied to breaking a new rule aiming to do just that.

After having his first player ejected because of a targeting violation, Meyer took exception to both the interpretation of the rule that led to the disqualification of cornerback Bradley Roby and the heavy loss that accompanies the flag after reviewing the hit and consulting with officials over the weekend.

Like all plays involving a targeting call, Roby's hit in the first quarter of a 34-24 win over Iowa on Saturday was reviewed in the booth on replay, with a chance for the ejection to be overturned. But officials upheld the on-the-field verdict, and the No. 4 Buckeyes played the rest of the game without one of their most important contributors.

Meyer is now suggesting that the rule itself might need a second opinion. 

"I think that the NCAA and everybody is going to want to look at that rule," Meyer said during his weekly news conference Monday. "Ohio State is very concerned about player safety. We have gone to the nth degree with adjusting practice. Any rule for the safety of players, no question we support it.

"However, that was a game-changer. To take one of your better players out of the game, that impacted that game. ... We teach and work hard at it that you play the game with the shoulder pads and play below the head. I agree 100 percent. But to have a guy ejected who played like that, obviously I'm concerned."

The rule change for this season had Meyer's attention well before this past weekend, and he said the Buckeyes have been proactive about educating their players on proper tackling technique and in the community, stressing the importance of eliminating some of the risk for injury.

In the offseason, Meyer teamed up with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to host a clinic for mothers of youth football players to help address issues ranging from fitting kids for proper equipment to the correct way to make a heads-up hit. And current Buckeyes have instructional videos on their iPads that demonstrate the right technique as part of an ongoing emphasis on avoiding the kind of illegal hits that can result in personal foul penalties.

But with Roby appearing to launch himself into a receiver who was determined to be defenseless, Meyer had his first encounter with the way the rule was being applied and the aftermath of it. And the latter in particular certainly seemed to bother him.

"Big Ten officials have done a great job, and I had a good conversation with Bill [Carollo], the head of the officials, and they're just looking at it," Meyer said. "The guy on the field has the hardest job, and after the shoulder pad hit, it slid up. Was that enough to overturn it? They're evaluating that as well.

"I just think on a national level that's something that needs to continue to be evaluated. Make sure we're doing the right thing for player safety, but understand the devastating impact on that game when you're out. ... That was not the intent of the rule. That play I can say that without, I'm sure, getting in trouble -- that rule was not put in for that play."

The targeting controversy has spread to other Big Ten schools as well. Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell spoke out against the rule after Cornhuskers cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste was ejected for his hit on Purdue running back Dalyn Dawkins on Oct. 12.

"You celebrate a good play in football. They're just trashing the game. It's sad. It really is sad," Bell said. "You hit someone too hard now, you're going to get a penalty, get ejected? It's embarrassing. We sign up to play football. We know exactly what we sign up to do. And for Stanley to get ejected over that one, it blows my mind. It's really disappointing. I celebrate a good play in football. He made a great break, made a good tackle. The guy was fine."

As a receiver, Bell said he did not sympathize with the offensive player in this case.

"I'm a grown man, and I signed up for a game where I know the consequences," he said.

Information from ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman was used in this report.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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