HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As soon as the words, "targeting rule" were uttered, Marshall defensive end Jeremiah Taylor laughed. It wasn't from joy.
That laugh came from knowing what the question would be - how will defenses conform to the new targeting rules that could leave their top players ejected - and from knowing that the answer won't be easy.
"I can see where both sides are coming from," Taylor said. "It'll make it a little bit tougher on us, but we'll manage it."
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel passed the rule this spring, allowing officials to eject players who target and hit defenseless players above the shoulders. If the lead official feels a player targeted a defenseless opponent above the shoulders, he can toss him from the game. That ruling only can be overturned by a replay official.
Taylor understands why the rule is in place, to help eliminate the helmet-to-helmet and shoulder-to-helmet hits that lead to concussions and possible long-term effects. But that also could lead to a team's hardest hitters being thrown out of a game.
"It's a little difficult," Taylor said. "We have some thumpers on our team and we can't have those guys getting thrown out. I think it'll be in the back of their mind. I hope it won't slow their play down, but I feel we'll be all right."
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said allowing a replay official to possibly overturn the call is a necessary move. Human error could lead to a top player being banished to the locker room for a legal hit. But Marshall's coaches won't leave anything to chance. They'll make sure players know how to tackle in order to keep those ejections from happening.
"That's a critical rule that could change a game," Holliday said. "You could have your best player ejected pretty easily. That's something we're going to talk about. We've coached our guys about it. I'm not sure you coach any differently, other than you make sure your target area is from the shoulders down."
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MARSHALL SHOWCASED its running-back depth once again during the Thundering Herd's afternoon practice. Sophomore Kevin Grooms pulled up limping after a drill and finished the session with a walking boot on his left foot. But that allowed Essray Taliaferro to score on a few nimble runs in his place.
Taliaferro showed that talent in last season's finale, rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Herd's loss to East Carolina.