August 7, 2013

Buckeyes react to targeting rule

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As Nick Vannett attempted to make a catch at the north end zone goal line of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center practice field on Wednesday, he was met by Chris Worley -- who in turn was met with a yellow flag.

The freshman safety was guilty of violating the NCAA's provision against helmet-to-helmet contact -- better known as the "targeting rule" -- and in a game situation would have likely been ejected under new penalties that have been implemented for the 2013 season. Had Worley's hit occurred in a game, his ejection would've been subject to review, but as one Big Ten official stated this past summer, referees have been told "when in doubt, throw him out."

The Buckeyes are yet to play an official game with the new penalty in place, but it's already affected the way that they've gone about their approach for the upcoming season.

"We've spent quite a bit of time talking about it," Ohio State safety Christian Bryant said. "The defense just has to work on fundamental tackling."

Despite the emphasis that the Buckeyes have placed on learning and understanding the new rule, they also know that having a player ejected due to it is nearly inevitable. Therefor, developing depth -- especially in the secondary -- is more important than it's ever been, with a starter's ejection being just one mistimed hit away.

"It makes coaches on defense make sure you have two and three-deep," OSU safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. "It will affect you at some point and time in the season. You hope not, but there's a good possibility.

"In the secondary room, that's a lot of times where it comes from, in the backend with those 'bang-bang' plays, so we gotta make sure we've got depth back there."

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Withers believes that the Ohio State secondary has the depth necessarily to deal with such a situation. The Buckeyes possess a plethora of players capable of playing the safety position, including Bryant, Worley, C.J. Barnett, Corey Brown, Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Najee Murray, Cameron Burrows and Ron Tanner.

"There's a good mixture of both some young guys and some experience back there," Withers said. "It's a good balance of both."

Despite the depth in Withers' position group, however, Worley's potentially game-changing hit served as a teaching moment for the OSU assistant, and a reminder that now more than ever, all Buckeyes defenders must be ready to play a moment's notice.

"Any time we can get an example on tape, we always use that example as a way to teach," Withers said. "I saw it out there and I couldn't tell whether it was targeting or not. The next guy better be ready."


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