Under new controversial rule, Clowney would have been ejected for ‘The Hit’

Carolina and SEC fans around the country have celebrated Jadeveon Clowney’s hit endlessly. Hell, any football fan knew that it was the hit of the 2012 season, setting up an epic Heisman run for 2013. It even won the ESPY for best play.

But don’t expect any play like that to be celebrated in 2013. In fact, two different officials said Clowney would have been ejected for his electrifying hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith.

Under the new rule, officials will eject players who lead with the crown of the helmet while targeting a ‘defenseless’ player above the shoulders, not to mention a 15-yard penalty. If the hit occurs in the first half, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game, but if it occurs in the second half, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game and for the first half of the next game.

This will change the game as we know it.

The biggest issue of the new rule is, of course, defining ‘targeting’ and ‘defenseless’. There are no cheap shots allowed on kickers, punters or quarterbacks after interceptions, as all are deemed defenseless. Players can block them, but no cheap shots. Return men in the act of catching a ball are also defenseless.

I’ll buy Aaron Murray is defenseless in this hit, but a running back moving towards the line of scrimmage deemed defenseless? That’s nearly impossible to determine.

While speaking with the ACC media yesterday, officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads said Clowney would have been ejected for his hit. Rhoads said he felt confident that Clowney used the crown of his helmet, which is deemed an ejectable offense under the new rule. But Rhoads isn’t the only official chiming in on the hit. Former NFL official and FOX Sports talking head Mike Pereira told SBNation’s Steven Godfrey, “If I’m an official, based on ‘when in doubt’, he’s out. He’s ejected. And when that goes to replay there’s no way to overturn it. There’s a great potential that hit causes an ejection this year.”

Clowney is listed at 6-6, while Vincent Smith is listed at 5-6. Can Clowney really get himself low enough to make legal hits – below the shoulders – on 5-6 to 5-8 running backs?

This rule change is not only controversial; it’s a game changer and the biggest rules change in a decade.