DALLAS -- We easily and understandably forget that Dana Holgorsen, the West Virginia coach by virtue of his ascension to the top shelf of the college game's offensive minds, played defensive back in high school.
He was not good, not even by his own evaluation, but was a player who in a different era might be worried today about this new officiating focus that's trying to keep defensive players from targeting the opponent's head.
"I was not athletic enough to leave my feet and target someone," he said Tuesday at the conclusion of the annual Big 12 football media days. "I closed my eyes and grabbed their ankles. It wouldn't have affected me whatsoever. You worry about a guy like Karl Joseph, who is aggressive."
And with that, Joseph's own coach joined the list of people worried about how the rule will -- as opposed to might -- affect WVU's most valuable defensive player. He's the sort of player the Mountaineers cannot afford to have ejected from a game, or from games, but he's the type of safety who will be at the mercy of the rule in its inaugural season.
For days now, Joseph has had people ask him about it and the consequence and how both will bother him.
"It's because of the tackles people saw me make last year," said the sophomore, who last year led the Mountaineers with 104 tackles, many of them noisy ones. "I don't think it's going change the way I play, but it's going to make me think about it a little more."
What college football will witness this year is an addition that will test the discipline and the skill of the game's defenders. Officials are trying to protect the heads of defenseless receivers, passers and ball carriers on their way to the ground and victims of blindside blocks. To say whether one of those was targeted, officials will look for defenders who make high-risk decisions to launch themselves, thrust upward to create impact, strike the helmet and use the crown of their helmet to punish an opponent.
There's more to it than that, but that's the least complicated summary one could pull from a 45-minute explanation of the rule delivered Tuesday by Walt Anderson, the league's coordinator of officials. There are parameters for the rule, which would be a 15-yard personal foul that would see the offending player ejected for four quarters, but they're awfully subjective. There is also a standard review that lets the officials huddle to see if the decision to eject a player was correct.
Anderson said Big 12 officials threw 17 penalty flags for targeting a player last season. Twelve would have stood after the review. Joseph said he believes at least 50 players nationally will be ejected in 2013. Iowa State safety Jacques Washington believes around 15 players will ejected from Big 12 games.
"It depends on how lenient the officials are, but they're attacking this this season for safety reasons, so I think it'll be that, at least," Washington said. "I just pray I make it through the season."
The players don't completely understand the rule yet, and they admit as much, because they haven't been able to meet with their coaches to have it explained to them. Holgorsen said he's already asked a graduate assistant to compile Joseph's 10 biggest hits from last season. He said he'll send that to Anderson and ask him to clarify what was illegal. Holgorsen will take the feedback and use that and a visit from officials to explain the rule.