Asked if he thinks the targeting penalty and punishment in college football is a little tough and should perhaps be reevaluated, Clemson senior linebacker Baylon Spector concurred.
“Yeah, I agree,” he said Wednesday to preview the Sugar Bowl against No. 3 Ohio State on New Year’s Day. “For sure.”
The targeting rule went against the Tigers and senior safety Nolan Turner toward the end of their 34-10 win against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game last Saturday.
With Clemson leading by 31 points with less 10 minutes left, Turner was ejected for targeting following his hit on Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer.
As Mayer dove for a pass from quarterback Ian Book, Turner charged forward in an effort to defend the play and made contact with the side of Mayer’s helmet, leading with his own helmet. The ruling on the field of targeting was confirmed after replay review.
By rule, because the penalty occurred in the second half, Turner will be forced to sit out the first half of the second-ranked Tigers’ next game, which of course is the College Football Playoff semifinal matchup against the Buckeyes.
“It’s big. We’re going to miss him,” Spector said of the fact Turner will be sidelined for the first 30 minutes of the game. “But we’ll do the best we can, and guys will step up like they have all year.”
Turner was one of the stars of last season’s meeting between the Tigers and Buckeyes in the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28, when Turner intercepted Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields in the end zone with 37 seconds remaining to seal Clemson’s 29-23 victory.
A second-team All-ACC selection this season, Turner leads the Tigers with three interceptions and ranks second on the team behind only Spector in total tackles with 61, six of which are tackles for loss. The fifth-year senior from Vestavia Hills, Ala., has started all 11 of Clemson’s games and recorded three pass breakups as well.
Spector believes Turner’s presence will especially be missed in regard to the knowledge and communication he brings to the table as a veteran leader on the back end of the defense.
“He brings, especially coaching wise on the field, that he knows where guys are supposed to be,” Spector said. “He’s a great communicator on the field, especially for the younger guys that are back there that are really getting a lot of playing time this year. Communicating, getting the calls in, and knowing where everyone is supposed to be, and his ability to recognize stuff is really good with all the tape that he watches.”
Just as senior James Skalski is the “quarterback” in the middle of Clemson’s defense at linebacker, Spector sees Turner as the “quarterback” of the secondary.
“I would say he’s like a Skalski, but for the DBs in the back seven,” Spector said. “So, that’s a lot.”
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