By Jimmy Hyams
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is puzzled.
He’s not sure what constitutes targeting.
“Really I don’t know the difference in what is and isn’t because what I think’s gonna be isn’t, and what I think isn’t, is. So maybe that’s just me. I don’t know.’’
It’s not just you, coach. It’s pretty much everyone.
Tennessee had another player ejected Saturday against Charlotte when defensive back Alontae Taylor was ejected for targeting. I thought it was the right call. Taylor led with the crown of his helmet and hit the Charlotte runner.
Others disagree, arguing that the runner lowered his head.
It is, without a doubt, a subjective call – even with slow motion and instant replay.
“I realize our officials have a tough job, I realize that,’’ Pruitt said after Tennessee edged Charlotte 14-3.
Then, he added: “I obviously don’t know what targeting is because I watched two games before I came over here (to Neyland Stadium) and they threw targeting fouls and once they replayed them, they wasn’t targeting fouls. I would have said both of them were.
“So I obviously don’t know … I don’t think anybody does, to tell you the truth. So we’ve got to come to a common ground as coaches, officials and everybody involved because we all want the same thing. We want to protect our game, we want to protect our players. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what the rule’s there for.
“I just want to coach it the right way, and I hate that guys have to suffer maybe by poor technique. So I don’t know.’’
Officials missed what I thought was an obvious targeting foul on South Carolina against Tennessee running back Ty Chandler last week.
And I thought officials made a poor targeting call on LSU linebacker Devon White against Mississippi State, forcing White to miss the first half of the Alabama game.
Tennessee has hard three targeting calls against its defense – one was overturned.
Pruitt was asked if he would like to see different tiers for targeting – perhaps 15 yards with no ejection when no flagrant, but ejection when it is blatantly obvious.
“I don’t have the answer and I was not questioning anything that’s done,’’ Pruitt said. “I just think there’s a lot of …it’s kind of hard to figure out. So I’d like to do a better job as a coach to coach my guys so they don’t get targeting.
“I’ve coached for a long time. We didn’t have any targeting – not the guys I’ve coached. We’ve had two this year.’’
In Pruitt’s mind, that’s two too many.