As rules officials weighed in this week at conference media days over whether Jadeveon Clowney’s famed tackle and forced fumble on Michigan running back Vincent Smith would be illegal under new targeting rules this season, Steve Spurrier defended the play that won an ESPY award.
“I don’t think he targeted his head. He hit him right about here (pointing to his chest) as the handoff was occurring,” he said Thursday at his media golf outing.
Spurrier is somewhat concerned about officials making instantaneous decisions about penalizing or possibly ejecting a player before they’re certain of what they saw.
“The only thing I don’t like about a lot of rules is they’re all judgment calls by the referee,” he said, referencing the celebration penalty and the new targeting penalty.
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He agrees with the intent of the targeting rule, however, as it relates to player safety.
“The rule is good if they’re talking about a guy spearing or using the crown of his helmet to hit another above the shoulder pads in the head. If he’s doing that on purpose, he deserves to get thrown out of the game,” Spurrier said.
During the ACC media days, officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads stated he viewed Clowney’s hit as one that would lead to an ejection this season. But Spurrier didn’t seem particularly concerned that the ACC would provide the officials for the games against North Carolina and Clemson this season.
“To tell you the truth, I’ve always liked those ACC guys. They’ve sometimes been a little kinder to us than the SEC guys,” Spurrier said. “So it would be strange if we got a bunch of bad calls. I like the ACC head official, Doug Rhoads, I like him. So I’m not going to worry about that.”
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Spurrier begins his ninth season at USC with the team’s first practice Aug. 2 at 7:15 p.m. It is open to the public.
After consecutive school-record 11-win seasons, he’s cruising along in his job and foresees himself staying at the helm for a while longer.
He credits his staff for helping him build the program and easing the burdens of his position.
“Because I’ve got such a good assistant coaching staff, it’s really not a stressful job for me as a head coach,” he said. “These guys all can coach, they can recruit, they get guys committed, they get along well with each other, and they’ve got wonderful wives who all get along. So our job is fun.”
Digging at Dabo
Spurrier couldn’t resist mentioning Clemson coach Dabo Swinney once again. The two have traded a few jabs over the years, with USC’s four straight wins over the Tigers giving it the recent upper hand in the rivalry.
As Spurrier spoke of the desire of his players to win the program’s first SEC championship, he took a slight detour.
“Can we win an SEC championship? That’ll be the big question. It won’t be easy. We won’t be favored. Nobody’s picking us. But we do have a chance. We know we’re capable,” he said.
“We don’t quite talk about it as much as Dabo does. He’s already got national champions on board. We don’t talk about it quite like that. I’m not saying that’s wrong. We’re talking about SEC, and if we lose four or five games, then we look like a fool talking about trying to win the SEC. If you can win the SEC, you’ve got a super chance of winning the national (title).”
Leading the way
Spurrier isn’t certain which players will step up as leaders this season – noting that he has a number of quiet guys – but he knows some will emerge.
“I don’t know who’s going to be the leader-type. It sort of naturally happens, usually with the older players,” he said. “It has to be a good player. It almost has to be a starter. It’s hard for a backup guy to tell everybody, ‘Let’s go get ‘em.’ (Senior defensive end) Chaz Sutton is certainly a player they all look up to.”
Who’s got the ball?
Spurrier joked about trying to come up with a new trick play this season. He talked about putting quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson both behind center.
“Have you ever seen a play when two quarterbacks are in the shotgun, but you don’t know which one they’re going to snap it to?” he asked. “That might be something to try this year.”
Spurrier laughed when asked about any worries he might have had over the off-season. To show his lack of concern during the days of summer, he answered with a question of his own: “When I was in Ireland playing golf or when I was in the Bahamas?”