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Why this South Carolina player’s targeting call was wiped out after a review

Here's an example of a new rule working the way it should.

We’ve spent a decent bit of time this year talking about targeting in college football. An important emphasis about the sport’s targeting rule is that it doesn’t merely apply to helmet-to-helmet hits.

Any tackler who leads with the crown of his helmet for any type of "forcible" tackle is supposed to be guilty of targeting, as can be a tackler who hits a defenseless player in the head or neck area, even if that tackler doesn't lead with the helmet crown.

That’s probably why officials initially called South Carolina’s T.J. Holloman for targeting after this hit on Georgia’s Jacob Eason on Sunday:

But Holloman’s targeting foul was nullified after a video review, and it seems like the crew handling the game in Columbia made exactly the right call.

Holloman didn’t commit targeting here. Why?

Let’s look at the NCAA’s rulebook. Here’s one way you can get called for targeting:

No player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting ... When in question, it is a foul.

Holloman does hit Eason hard and with his helmet, but he doesn’t use the crown of the helmet. He just kind of runs into him face-first, although it does get close to the borderline. Holloman's not making himself into a bull and angling to ram the quarterback with the top of his head, basically. That's important.

You could make a fair case that contact is initiated close enough to the helmet crown for this to be "in question," but I think it's clearly enough not the crown.

But you can commit a targeting foul another way, too. From the rules:

No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent ... with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting.

Those "indicators," mentioned in both those passages, include but aren’t limited to all of these:

-Launch—a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area

-A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground

-Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area

-Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet

But the indicators, in this case, don’t even matter so much.

Holloman didn't hit Eason in the "head or neck area," instead hitting him hard on the outer part of his right shoulder. It’s a hard hit and probably stung for Eason, but his head and neck were never brought into play. And because Holloman didn’t lead with the crown, there’s no targeting here.

We’ve seen hits this year that lay bare why we need a targeting rule to keep players as safe as they can possibly be while playing this violent a game. Here's the other side of the same equation, which is important in its own right.

Replay officials’ presence in this equation is a new thing, resulting from an NCAA rule that’s taken effect this year. We can and should knock the NCAA for making decisions that hurt players, but here’s an example of this one helping.