Joseph on Targeting: "I'm Not Going to Change" - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Joseph on Targeting: "I'm Not Going to Change"

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MORGANTOWN -

A major emphasis in college football this year will be the enforcement of the targeting penalty and the subsequent ejection that comes with it. On Monday, West Virginia University welcomed Big 12 officials to campus to discuss the penalty and how it will be called in 2013.

The penalty itself hasn't changed from what it had been in the past, but since it now can result in a player being ejected from the game or even half of the following game rather than just yielding 15 yards to the offense, teams have to make a serious effort to ensure their players understand the rule.

"Really, the only thing they changed is if you duck your head and hit with the crown of your helmet to anywhere on the body is basically targeting," sophomore linebacker Isaiah Bruce said after watching Monday's presentation. "So you have to keep your head up at all times and they teach us that, to keep your head up. They say anything above the shoulders is considered targeting if the head's down."

Bruce says that the defensive coaches in the past have taught him to aim for the ‘V' of a player's neck when tackling, but now tell the defenders to aim at shoulder level or lower. Moving their heads to the side of the players rather than striking directly with their head is another emphasis as well as seeing what they're hitting so the crown of their helmet is taken out of the equation.

Bruce got to see specific examples of his own violations when the Big 12 officials rolled tape on the 2012 season and his own No. 31 jersey flashed across the screen a few times.

"I understood why [it was a penalty]," Bruce said of his own hits. "It was either because I had my head down or it was a little late or something like that. That's definitely being corrected."

And who was the biggest violator from the Mountaineers?

"You would think Karl [Joseph] would, but most of his hits were clean," said Bruce.

Instead, according to Bruce, players like former WVU safety Terence Garvin and current junior cornerback Ishmael Banks were shown most often making hits that would have resulted in their ejection under the current rules.

As much as a staff has to emphasize the rule in order to avoid losing a key component of their defense or special teams unit, head coach Dana Holgorsen doesn't want to get to the point where he is scaring his Mountaineers into playing a different brand of football. 

"I'm tired of talking about it," said Holgorsen. "If you focus on it so much and we curb their aggression, then I'm not going to be happy about it. It's football. It's supposed to be aggression and big hits."

Joseph, for one, made a living on such hits as a freshman. Leading the team with 102 tackles in his rookie season, he is hopeful he can continue to play the game the way he feels will give him the biggest impact for WVU.

"It's not going to make me slow down or change the way I play," Joseph said. "You can't really think about it too much. If you think about it too much, it's going to change the way you play. A big part of my game is being physical and hitting like that, so I'm not going to change the way I play, but I'm going to be smarter about it."

Holgorsen admits he does not think the rule will have as big of an impact as some believe it could. Walt Anderson, the Big 12 Coordinator of Officials, spoke about the targeting rule and its enforcement at Big 12 Media Days and while there was clearly some confusion on what constitutes and violation and what doesn't, he also said that the penalty was only called 17 times last season. Of those, five would have been overturned upon video review, which the officials will be able to use in the case of a questionable call.

What impact targeting truly has on the game could be completely dependent on who is called for it.

"If it happens to a guy who is not a high profile player, it won't be an issue," said Holgorsen. "If it happens to a player like Karl Joseph in the second half against William & Mary and he's ejected and then he can't play the first half against Oklahoma, people will make a big deal about it. We will do our best to educate them on the rule, but I don't think it will be that big of a deal this year."

Joseph does say that he feels the rule may be unfair to a defense, but he understands the attempt to make the game safer for an offensive player who is deemed "defenseless" at the point of the hit.

It begs the question: If you had known all of these rules would ultimately exist in favor of the offense, would you have continued to play defense in your younger years or would you have made the switch to a more glamorous position?

"No way," Bruce said, laughing. "Defense is too much fun."

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