Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano used a blend of old school and new to explain how he looks at the targeting rule in college football.
“It’s something that we talk about constantly, and that is No. 1 see what you hit,” Schiano said Tuesday night as the Buckeyes looked ahead to a game at Nebraska on Saturday night.
That line is not just a clever one Schiano came up with to deal with a sometimes confusing (and inconsistently enforced) rule meant to limit head injuries in the game.
It’s also the title of a decades-old video starring Dick Vermeil, a long-time NFL coach and broadcaster.
While concussion concerns have grown significantly in the past few years, the realization football is a dangerous game is not new.
The focus of Vermeil’s video was to teach defensive players how to avoid neck and spinal cord injuries.
Going in head down is also a good way to raise the likelihood of getting juked out of one’s shoes.
“If you keep your eyes up and you see what you hit, that’s No. 1 for safety and No. 2 for performance,” said Schiano, who has been coaching football since the late ‘80s. “The second thing is we have a strike zone that we talk about. You need to hit in that strike zone. Anything other than that you can anticipate a penalty.”
The “strike zone” is a fairly new creation. Players are prohibited from hitting a defenseless player (defined in a variety of ways) in the head or neck area.
In the NFL hitting too high will result in a 15-yard penalty and perhaps a fine. In college, the 15-yard penalty can be accompanied by an ejection.
“Certainly in the last seven or eight years they’ve really cracked down on that, and I think it’s a good thing,” Schiano said. "I don’t think the game has ever been more safe than it is today.
“And good thing we did that or we’d have some big problems. We’ve just got to make sure when it is called they have a system in place for review and I think the whole thing is a positive move for football. We’ve just got to do it right.”
Unfortunately for Ohio State, that system broke down Saturday when Denzel Ward’s ejection was not overturned by the replay official.
Head coach Urban Meyer confirmed that Tuesday when he told reporters the Big Ten had acknowledged to him that was an error.