The NCAA implemented a new targeting rule in March for the 2013 season that will allow officials to eject any player who targets and hits a defenseless player above the shoulders, and the Ohio State football team is preparing for the change.
In the Buckeyes’ fourth practice of the season on Wednesday, which Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany attended, freshman safety Chris Worley was flagged for hitting sophomore tight end Nick Vannett as he caught a pass at the goal line during a full team scrimmage. That led senior safety C.J. Barnett to say the officials “don’t even know what they are looking at.”
Barnett said it is something the defensive coaches are teaching in the film room as well as on the practice field, but it does not change his mentality.
“Play fast, play fast,” Barnett said. “And if you get a penalty you get a penalty, oh well. Next guy up.”
Co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said, from a coaching standpoint, the rule change will affect everyone, not just OSU.
“What it does is it makes coaches on defense sure you got two and three (players) deep,” Withers said. “It will affect you at some point in the season. You hope not, but there’s a good possibility.”
As the rule is intended to make the game safer, Withers said it is his job to get that message across to the players.
“We always talk about it in the secondary room, about how that’s a lot of time where it comes from,” Withers said. “The back end with those bang-bang plays. It’s a rule about safety and, as a coach, you have to teach it as a rule about safety.”
Senior safety Christian Bryant said it is a rule he would rather not “speak on,” but as a leader on the team, it is just another thing the veterans are responsible for handing down to the young guys.
“All of the older guys in the secondary are just trying to do a good job of leading a lot of young guys in the right direction and showing them the way,” Bryant said.
One of those veterans is redshirt junior corner Bradley Roby, who practiced with the second-team defense Wednesday.
Roby is waiting a pretrial hearing later this month for a misdemeanor battery charge from an incident at a Bloomington,Ind., bar.
Bryant said he thinks the experience will be humbling for his teammate.
“I feel like it’s a humbling experience for (Roby), just him stepping down with the twos right now,” Bryant said. “He’s doing a pretty good job of taking that role and understanding what he needs to do and showing the young guys that he doesn’t really have a problem with it.”
Barnett agreed, saying Roby knows the price he has to deal with.
“Coach Meyer doesn’t tolerate anything,” Barnett said. “He messed up and broke a rule and he’s gotta pay for it.”
Replacing Roby at corner is not the only thing the defense is concentrating on during camp. Even though the unit lost seven starters from last year’s 12-0 squad, Barnett said the team will be fine.
“I know we lost Johnny (former defensive lineman John Simon) and Hank (former defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins) and all, but it’s Ohio State. One down, next up,” Barnett said. “We’re not really worried about who we lost but more of who’s next.”
From the offensive side of the ball, freshman Dontre Wilson was all the buzz again, catching passes both as a wide receiver and from the back field. He outraced members of the defensive secondary easily on numerous occasions, and Bryant called him a “special player right now.”
“I feel like he has a lot of attributes that he can bring to the team,” Bryant said. “One of those things is just being elusive.”
Wilson was not the only freshman who caught the eyes of the veteran defenders, as both Bryant and Barnett said wide receiver Jalin Marshall also jumped out after he returned a kick off for a touchdown.
“He’s one of those guys who’s a strong, fast guy, so he can produce at any position,” Bryant said.