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The SEC’s Take On Helmet-To-Helmet Hits

Earlier today we posted video of two plays, both involving helmet-to-helmet contact in SEC action.

The first play involved Georgia’s Quintavious Harrow.  Over the weekend, he lowered his head and collided with Auburn kick returner Tre Mason.  The second play involved Arkansas’ Marquel Wade and occurred two weeks ago.  Wade has given a full-game suspension for his hit on Vanderbilt punt returner Jonathan Krause.

The two plays were comparable — in our view — because both involved a good bit of helmet-to-helmet contact.  (And with the NFL doling out fines for all manner of helmet-to-helmet hits, questions exist among many fans regarding what is and isn’t a helmet-to-helmet foul in the college ranks.)  While the plays were comparable, we stated that we did not feel Harrow’s hit was nearly as flagrant as Wade’s because a) Harrow’s hit was part of an all over collision and b) Mason was not a defenseless player.

In Wade’s case, the collision consisted almost entirely of the helmet-on-helmet blast and Krause had his eyes turned skyward searching for the punt, the very definition of a “defenseless” player.

We reached out to the SEC for the league’s take on these types of plays in general, and chief PR agent Charles Bloom responded as follows:

“These hits are a point of emphasis for the conference and (have) been a national issue.  The league is concerned about the player’s safety and strives to be consistent in the rulings.  The SEC reviews these hits each week to determine if there are any additional penalties. 

According to the rulebook, helmet-to-helmet contact, in itself, is not a penalty.  If you notice during games, the referee will use terms such as ‘targeting a defenseless player’ or ‘using the crown of helmet to initiate contact.’”

The rules specifically dealing with these hits are as follows:

Rule 9-1 article 3 – No player shall target an initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.  When in question, it is a foul.

Rule 9-1 article 4 – No player shall target an initiated contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.  When in question, it is a foul.

Let’s look at the hit by Harrow again:

Did Harrow lead with the crown of his helmet?  If you pause the play, then yes, it appears he did lower his head which caused the top of his helmet to strike Mason’s helmet.

But did he target and initiate contact against Mason specifically with the crown of his helmet?  It doesn’t appear so.  In fact, it looks like poor tackling technique — lowering the head endangers the tackler as much as the player being tackled — as Harrow dropped his shoulder (and head) and went for the big hit rather than the safer wrap-up.

As for Rule 9-1-4, was Mason defenseless?  Again, we say no.  He had caught the ball, was returning it, and Harrow came into him from the side and front.  This was not a blindside hit.

Nor was it anywhere near as vicious as Wade’s hit two weeks ago.

However, with the NFL (with its fines) and college conferences making helmet-to-helmet hits “a point of emphasis,” the subtle nuances between different hits will no doubt continue to be scrutinized.

And for many, the difference between a penalty and a fair play will ultimately just come down to which color jersey a player is wearing.

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LSU’s Mathieu Should Expect A Half-Game Suspension

The Honey Badger may have to spend some more time off the field this week.  We expect the SEC offices will come down with a half-game suspension on LSU’s talented cornerback Tyrann Mathieu for the unnecessary clothesline that he delivered to Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick during a punt return on Saturday night.

Mathieu was flagged 15 yards for the penalty.  Kirkpatrick was knocked out of the game.

In recent weeks the SEC has handed out half-game suspensions — as well as one full-game suspension — for dirty shots at knees and helmet-first blows to defenseless receivers.  We fully anticipate Mathieu will be given similar discipline for:

1)  Blindsiding an opponent with a clothesline shot from his right arm

2)  Doing so in the SEC’s showcase came which was witnessed by millions upon millions of people

You can be sure Mike Slive wasn’t thrilled that the league’s classic matchup was marred by such a dumb, dirty play.

Mathieu — who was suspended two weeks ago for reportedly failing a drug test after smoking synthetic marijuana – did apologize to Kirkpatrick via Twitter yesterday:

“S/O to Dre didn’t mean to do what I did but it’s a technique that we practice, you were just tall as hell and fast you kno what!  Goodluck”

He also tweeted the following just before the apology:

“You can call me what you wanna call me!! I play in between the whistle and I’m sorry if I’m a little more intense than other players!  #1

I get trash talked.  Spitted on, cursed at.. So not I hope you understand why I play BIG BOY FOOTBALL”

Last week we wrote that Arkansas’ Marquel Wade deserved a full-game suspension for his helmet-to-helmet cheap shot on Vanderbilt punt returner Jonathan Krause.  The response from a few Hog fans was not surprising — “you’re picking on Arkansas,” “his hit wasn’t dirty,” “you’re wrong to think he’ll be suspended.”

We expect to get a few of those emails from LSU fans, too.  But Mathieu’s hit was dirty.  And when everyone but a player’s own fanbase thinks a hit is dirty, that should cause all of those people in that fanbase to wonder if they’re just being biased in favor of their guy.

That said, we believe that by Wednesday Mathieu will receive his sentence and he’ll be left on the bench for the first half of the Tigers’ next game with Western Kentucky.  (And he may get a full-game suspension depending on how angry Slive was over the negative PR factor.)

Slive and the SEC office have set a precedent with blindside, dangerous shots to defenseless players.  If they don’t penalize Mathieu, there will be a lot of questions coming from other corners of the conference.

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Hog Assistant Says Wade’s “Really Sorry”

Freshman receiver Marquel Wade was suspended for Arkansas’ game with South Carolina by the SEC office yesterday.  Wade — who has eight catches on the season — launched himself helmet-first into Vanderbilt punt returner Jonathan Krause during last Saturday’s game while serving as a gunner on the Razorbacks’ coverage unit.

Offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said last evening that Wade is “down” over the suspension:

“I know he’s really, really sorry.  One, for the act that he did to the kid, but that he’s not going to get to help us this weekend.  That’s the reason he’s down, but we’ve got plenty of people at that position.”

Wade has apologized for embarrassing Arkansas.  The league has suspended him for one game.  Bobby Petrino has said UA will comply with the league’s decision.  And Krause is healthy and ready to play again this weekend.

It’s time to hope Wade — and others — learn not to deliver intentional helmet-to-helmet shots.  It’s also time to move on.

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Arkansas’ Wade Suspended One Full Game By SEC

Arkansas receiver and punt team gunner Marquel Wade received a one-game suspension from the Southeastern Conference today for his actions in Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt.

During that game, Wade was penalized for a flagrant personal foul when he launched himself, helmet-first into the helmet of defenseless Vandy punt returner Jonathan Krause.  Was was also ejected from the game for his hit.

In a press release, the SEC referred to “Southeastern Conference Constitution, Article 4.42 (d) which states that a student-athlete may be suspended if it is determined that the student-athlete has committed a flagrant or unsportsmanlike act.”

This is the same rule that was cited two weeks ago when players from the Georgia-Vanderbilt game were suspended for one half of action by the league.

Knowing that this is standard operation procedure for the SEC, yesterday we called for Wade to receive a full-game ban considering the dangerous nature of the hit he put on Krause.  (Krause later returned to his feet and then to the game.)  We further explained our position on the statewide Hog Sports Radio Network this afternoon.  It wasn’t hard to guess how the league might respond to such a vicious hit.

The SEC does not want players — regardless of intent — to launch their bodies, helmet-first into the helmets of other players.  In this case, both Krause and Wade were lucky to escape injury.

The suspension should serve as a lesson to other SEC players that these types of dangerous highlight-reel hits will not be tolerated.  Wade will miss the Razorbacks’ game with South Carolina on Saturday.

“We have addressed the matter and will comply with the league’s decision,” Bobby Petrino said today.

While Wade was no doubt suspended for the hit, his actions after the hit — a bit of a hopping/celebration move and his having to be restrained and escorted to the locker room by Hog assistants — were run over and over and over on national highlight shows all weekend and again on Monday.  You can bet that Mike Slive wasn’t happy that his league was shown in such a light. 

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Hogs’ Wade Deserves A Full-Game Suspension From SEC

Arkansas receiver Marquel Wade — ejected for an over-the-top flagrant hit on Vanderbilt punt return Jonathan Krause on Saturday — deserves a full-game suspension from the SEC.

As we’ve seen this season, Mike Slive usually hands down half-game suspension for fighting, flagrant fouls, cheap shots, etc.  But Wade’s hit on Krause Saturday wasn’t a chop block to the knees or a haymaker thrown in anger… it was a dirty lick that could have left Krause seriously injured.  Or worse.

After the hit, Wade celebrated as Krause lay on the ground.  After his ejection, Wade had to be escorted to the Razorbacks’ locker room.

Krause eventually got up and returned to the game.  He was lucky.

After the game, Bobby Petrino said that he didn’t see the hit.  “It sounded like he hit him — the ball wasn’t even close to the returner.  We have to be able to look up and recognize where the ball is and get away from him.”

Fair enough.

But Wade needs a game off courtesy of the SEC office.  Football is a brutal sport and good and bad decisions are made in milliseconds.  This was not just a bad decision.

Wade launched himself into a defenseless punt returner.  Then he celebrated the hit as his victim stayed on the ground.  Then he seemed angry about his ejection.

It appears to us that he needs more time to come to a full understanding that the hit and the post-hit behavior aren’t acceptable and that the ejection was absolutely appropriate.

Not surprisingly, there are defenses of Wade’s act floating around the internet today.  “Aw, he didn’t mean anything by it.”  Nonsense.  To anyone without a stake in Saturday’s game that is nonsense.

And to anyone who doesn’t think defending Wade is utter nonsense, please remove the plastic pig from off thy head and ask yourself what you would be saying today if a Vanderbilt gunner had launched himself helmet-first into the head of Arkansas return man Joe Adams… after he’d already signaled for a fair catch.

That’s what we thought.

Wade deserves a full week suspension.  Such action would send a message to the player and to every other punt team gunner in the SEC — you can hit and hit hard… but you can’t hit dirty.

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Faceoff: Krause vs. Thomas

The offense vs. defense faceoff pits a member of Vanderbilt’s offense against a member of Vanderbilt’s defense in a contest to see who can answer the most random trivia questions correctly. The latest faceoff was between Jonathan Krause (wide receiver) and Johnell Thomas (defensive end). At the end of the year, the side of the ball with the most points wins this challenge.

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