LARAMIE - Marqueston Huff sees the way football is changing, and he doesn't like it.
On Monday, referee Walt Anderson outlined new rule changes at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas. Rather than introducing a new rule, the most noteworthy amendment added a stricter penalty to an existing one.
This season, a defensive player that targets the head of a ball carrier will be assessed a 15-yard personal foul, just like before.
He'll also be ejected.
"Especially with the ejections, I really don't think it's fair to us as defensive players," Huff said. "It's pretty hard. They're acting like we have five seconds to make up our mind on, 'I'm going to hit him here, or I'm going to hit him there.' To me, if you're going to make all these rules, just make it flag football."
The conference's referees are being trained to identify dangerous tactics by defenders, including launching themselves into the ball carrier above the shoulder and using the crown of the helmet as a weapon.
A penalized hit could end up costing Wyoming in multiple games, too. If the offending player is ejected for targeting in the second half of a game, he will also be ineligible to play in the first half of the next game.
A coach will have the option to challenge the play in hopes of having the ejection reversed, but the penalty itself will not be nullified. And just like with other challenges, a coach will not be able to challenge unless he has a timeout.
Obviously, these stricter measures could potentially cripple a defense's depth - and with a team that cannot afford to lose its key players, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen knows the Cowboys will have to tread lightly.
"They have to have the understanding that now that penalty's going to bring more than 15 yards. Now you're going to lose a game - you're going to be out for a game," Christensen tells the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/138B74b). "We're certainly not at a position depth-wise where we can have players stand on the sideline because of targeting penalties."
The reasoning behind the added punishment is obvious. Players need to be protected, and with more serious incentive not to commit these penalties, concussions and dangerous collisions should decline as a result.
But even so, officials are fighting an uphill battle. Football is a sport built on contact, and as two opponents collide in the middle of a turf field, Huff says some things are inevitable.
"The head-to-head blows, regardless of how many rules they change or if they eject people, sooner or later it's going to happen," Huff said. "That's just the game of football."
Huff understands that these rules are in place. He doesn't want to be a detriment to his team or injure an opponent, but he's not going to change his competitive mentality, either.
When a pass comes over the middle and Wyoming's free safety approaches, ready for the hit, he's going to respond aggressively. A recently added rule change will do little to slow him down.
"I'm going to play football, regardless of how many rules there are," Huff said. "That's what I know how to do. Hopefully it doesn't happen where I have head-to-head contact, but I'm not going to be hesitant. I'm going to come down on the run aggressively, like I'm supposed to. And I'm going to play the pass aggressively. And if a receiver comes over the middle and it's my job to take him down, I'm going to do that."
Huff isn't alone in his beliefs.
"I know people are still going to be stuck in their ways," UNLV defensive back Tim Hasson said. "When you're on the field, you're really trying to kill the dude lining up across from you."