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Jumbo Package: Modifying the targeting rule makes as much sense as not modifying the rule

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There are two competing interests at play in the proposed changes to the targeting rule.

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-Memphis vs Western Kentucky
Killshots may kill the game.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA committee will look into possibly tweaking controversial rule this week

I had a conversation with a commissioner several years ago about this subject. I pressed him on the targeting rule and why ejections needed to be a part of it. His response: “Someday I’m going to be sitting in a court of law and will be questioned by a plaintiff’s attorney. He’s going to ask me if I did everything I could to make the game as safe as it could possibly be. The answer to that question had damned well better be ‘yes.’ “

If this aspect of the targeting rule isn’t changed, that will be the reason.

“For the commissioners, nothing right now is more important than player safety,” Shaw said. “If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of player safety.”

In what has been a recurring theme at this site for the past several years, and is increasingly part of the national dialogue on football, we talk about limiting liability, particularly limiting contact to the head, and to a lesser extent slowing down the game and limiting contact in practice. The coaches and players want a commonsense change to the rule. Presently, if a video review doesn’t support the initial targeting foul, then the 15-yarder is overturned, and the player may or may not be ejected. The proposed changes make a little more sense from a competitive standpoint — if the review does not support targeting or inconclusive then why punish the player or team at all by pulling them from competition?

Sure, it seems simple on its face, but the conference commissioners and directors of officiating bring up the point addressed in the quote above. The penalty as-called is changing player behaviors. There are fewer gratuitous kill-shots on helpless players. For the long-term health of both the players and the game, they argue, the rule should stand as written, as interpreted, and as liberally-construed. There are warts, to be sure — the rule is unevenly applied, “defenseless” is subjective as hell, when it doubt, throw a flag. But, I think at the end of the day, those with the most skin in the game and subject to the most liability, will win this round over coaches and players...and we’ll be left screaming at our televisions at perceived injustices on the field.

This is really good reporting by Barnett. When he’s on his game, he’s tough to beat.

Player safety, you say?

Is offense dominating too much in college football? Tough call as games get longer - CBSSports.com

But there’s a multi-faceted, big-picture conversation starting to occur again related to game lengths that involve fan enjoyment, player safety and competitive balance. They’re all intertwined to these central questions: Has college football shifted too much to offense, and if so, is there a desire to swing the pendulum back?

The SEC is joining the charge to do something to shorten the length of the game. The ACC presented similar results last year. Game times are up an average of 11 plays and 21 minutes from just six seasons ago. Remember when Saban, among others, was mocked soundly for talking about player safety? Changes may be coming in the future for that very reason...see our lead story above.

Nick Saban to...Alabama!

Report: Every NFL team with a coaching vacancy reached out to Nick Saban - CBSSports.com

A league source told me that every NFL team with a coaching opening contacted Alabama’s Nick Saban. All were emphatically told “no thanks.” I’m not certain whether Saban told them this directly. It could have been Saban’s agent or some intermediary.

I think the poor man is going to have to be in his grave before NFL teams stop “reaching out” to the firmly-entrenched king of college football. Closer to 70 than to 60, he’s retiring in Crimson, folks.

Quarterbackin’

Don't expect a sophomore slump from Jalen Hurts

Among the 25 most similar seasons to Hurts’ freshman year were the freshman seasons of J.T. Barrett (2014) and Marcus Mariota (2012), along with the final seasons of Tim Tebow (2009), Collin Klein (2012), Terrelle Pryor (2010) and Vince Young (2005). In a way, Hurts played last year like a seasoned veteran. Of the 100 most similar seasons to Hurts’ freshman year since 2000, 64 came from upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) with only nine coming from freshmen.

BOL’s deep-dive into the position battles picks up where it left off last week, with QB. There were plenty of grumblings about Hurts down the stretch, and he is very much still a work in progress. But, because the season didn’t end the way we wanted, we tend to overlook what a stellar rookie campaign the raw product actually had in 2016.

Speaking of QB...

Former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke joining Alabama staff | AL.com

Former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke is joining Alabama's staff as an offensive analyst, he confirmed to 247Sports' Josh Newberg.

The 44-year old was the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams' quarterbacks coach the last two years after five years as the head coach at IMG Academy in Florida, where he coached Crimson Tide star running back Bo Scarbrough.

It’s abundantly clear that Nick Saban is hiring Daboll to call plays and looks to be outsourcing, at least intellectually, the job of coaching the quarterbacks — he’s bringing in a ton of analysts that know a lot about the quarterback position.

Also joining the staff yesterday was former safety Nick Perry. Perry spent the last two seasons as a Raven UDFA before changing his career to coaching this week.

NFL Draft

Alabama to host Pro Day next Wednesday | AL.com

Coverage of the event will air on the SEC Network between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The list of 17 draft-eligible Crimson Tide players attending consists of Allen, Ryan Anderson, Dakota Ball, Gehrig Dieter, Reuben Foster, Brandon Greene, Adam Griffith, Howard, Marlon Humphrey, Eddie Jackson, Korren Kirven, Cole Mazza, Brandon Moore, Robinson, ArDarius Stewart, Dalvin Tomlinson and Tim Williams.

The Tide’s Pro-Day will be next Wednesday with 17 draft-eligible Tide players participating the in televised event.

The NFL Combine is underway this weekout, with workouts set to begin tomorrow. If you’ve not read CB’s great Combine breakdown, do that now, Philistine.

2017 NFL Scouting Combine Schedule for Ten Crimson Tide Players - Roll 'Bama Roll

Briefly:

Former Tide assistant John Brannen was named the Horizon League’s basketball coach of the year in just his second season on the job. Well done.

Giving the people what they want means football every day of the week. Fortunately, the MAC has heeded our call. The league will play zero games on Saturday this season: Yup. Every MAC game will take place on Tues., Wed., Thurs. and Fri. Nights. Amen.

SEC WBBT

Alabama Women’s Basketball Advances in SEC Tournament with 77-57 win over Vanderbilt - ROLLTIDE.COM - University of Alabama Official Athletics Site

Alabama women's basketball advanced in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 77-57 victory over Vanderbilt on Wednesday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The win was the Crimson Tide's first in the conference tournament since 2013 and its 77 points were the most it has scored in the tournament since putting up 82 against South Carolina on Feb. 25, 1999.

The Tide women shot lights out yesterday and committed just 9 turnovers en route to one of its most impressive wins in years. They face 5-seed Kentucky today in the early afternoon game, slated to begin 20 minutes after the first. If you’re looking for a ballpark time, try 12:15 or so Central on SEC Network and WatchESPN. UK won the season’s only meeting in Tuscaloosa 71-54.