Nothing fires up Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer more than a big, clean hit. He’s spent hours watching players like Jadeveon Clowney light up opponents, hoping to recreate that same magic in his players.
Now all that work may be for naught as NCAA officials will be cracking down this season on the big hits and targeting players — even leading to possible ejections.
“It’s ridiculous,” Spencer said during the Oklahoma State media golf outing at Karsten Creek. “In a fraction of a second you’re asking (Clowney) to do something different. We had three incidents last year where we got personal fouls because at the very last second the offensive player ducked or slipped and there was some head-to-head contact.”
The latest in a controversial rule change stems from Clowney’s hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl, sending Smith’s helmet tumbling across the field — a hit that officials said would have resulted in Clowney being ejected.
“I just hope there’s some common sense that’s applied to (the new rule),” Spencer said. “I hope that people that make the rules realize (players) have made tackles before in their lives running full speed against guys that are running 4.3 (second 40-yard dashes), and they’ll be realistic about it. But at the end of the day a rule is a rule, and if something is called against us out on the field, we have to go to the next play and you have to live with it — whether you like it or not.”
Even with the new rule in place, don’t expect the Cowboy defenders to back off any time soon.
“We just have to make the kids aware of it,” Oklahoma State defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements said. “It’s my understanding that the way they call the penalty might not be any different than what they did last year. The guys on the course gave me the stat that the flag for that penalty was thrown 17 times last year in the Big 12. Now the repercussions are tremendously more stringent with the ejections and everything, but it’s also my understanding that they’re going to review it and make sure it’s the right call to make.
“The officials are going to do their job and I know they’re going to want to do their job. Will there be mistakes out there? There’s mistakes in everything. But with the players, you just take the approach that you make them aware of it. It’s just like being aware of anything else. You talk about it on a regular basis and then you hope that when they’re put in that position that they will perform the right way.”
One player that could be the target of tackles worthy of ejections is Calvin Barnett. The senior defensive lineman picked up a couple of personal fouls in last year’s loss to Arizona and — like Clowney — has the ability to get in the backfield and deliver punishing blows.
But that isn’t going to keep Clements from letting Barnett run rampant on opposing offenses.
“I don’t necessarily think you have to scale him back at all,” Clements said. “You just have to tackle the right way. If you’re running your feet, you have your head up, your eyes up and you’re wrapping up, then it’s my understanding it’s not a penalty. If your not just making contact directly with the ball carrier’s head. Our fundamentals of tackling is that we don’t target the head. That’s not what they’re taught to do. They’re taught to run their eyes through the chest and you just have to hope that when they’re put in that position that they can execute the right way. It’s like any other technique or skill.”
Even if the Oklahoma State defense finds itself fighting the personal fouls, Spencer said he isn’t about to change the style of his defense. Nor is he going to let it get to them.
“I put my own stamp on things for sure,” Spencer said. “When you look at the issues from last year, you’re going to make changes and make yourself more effective. ... My philosophy is not so much to just be more aggressive, but I want them to come out of that first day of camp getting the job done and being effective in certain situations.
“All that’s not going to change (because of the new rule). Sometimes things might happen where something inadvertent might cause there to be contact above the shoulders. Sometimes that might happen and I’m just going to tell our guys to forget about it and play the next play. The sad thing will be if an ejection occurs because of that, then you’re going to steal the defense (from the game).”