For the second straight week, the SEC has suspended a player for a dangerous hit above the shoulders.
South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger will miss this weekend's game after the SEC determined that his hit on a UAB wide receiver in the third quarter of Saturday's contest was illegal, according to a release from the SEC office.
The SEC ruled that Swearinger's hit was in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”
"These rules are for the protection of the health and safety of our players on both sides of the ball,” said SEC commissioner Mike Slive. “It is imperative that our student-athletes understand the importance of this rule. Our motivation in making these decisions is to protect our student-athletes.”
Just last week, Ole Miss safety Trae Elston was suspended for one game for the same violation.
So was Swearinger's suspension warranted? Looking at the video, it absolutely was.
He left his feet and clearly was targeting a defenseless wide receiver's head.
People will undoubtedly make the argument that Vanderbilt defensive back Andre Hal should have been suspended for a similar hit on Gamecock tight end Justice Cunningham in the season opener.
The SEC released a statement on the difference between the two hits to Darryl Slater of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier:
On replay, although contact was made to the [South Carolina] receiver’s helmet, the primary contact from the Vanderbilt defender was to the shoulder area. The Vanderbilt defender never lowers his head and the contact is made with his facemask up looking at the South Carolina receiver. It was a foul because there was glancing contact to the receiver’s helmet.
In the UAB contest, based on video replays, the contact was initiated by a slight launch of the defender into the receiver and the primary contact was targeted directly into the receiver’s facemask.
There may be some truth to that and it may be the SEC just deflecting the question. Either way, let's not justify bad behavior with more bad behavior.
By the letter of the law, Swearinger's hit warranted a suspension whether previous calls were missed or not. Player safety is the most important thing, even if the rules aren't enforced consistently.
Senior Jared Shaw is listed as Swearinger's backup on South Carolina's most recent depth chart, but he has zero tackles on the season. Former safety and current cornerback Akeem Auguste could return from offseason surgery this weekend, and freshman cornerback T.J. Gurley may also get a look at strong safety.