TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nearly three months have passed since Deondre Francois took a hit in a game, but that has not stopped coach Jimbo Fisher from describing what, exactly, happened to his quarterback last season.
He will not go into detail about just how injured Francois was over the course of 2016. “He was banged up,” Fisher says. But he will go into detail about the hits Francois took, and how many appeared to come late.
Fisher says he has tape that shows Francois getting hit 32 times after he took two full steps, and he intends to bring it with him to ACC spring meetings at Amelia Island, Fla., to spur discussion about what constitutes a late hit and how those hits should be penalized.
“All the injuries came from late and cheap hits,” Fisher said recently. “If we don’t emphasize the hitting on the quarterback, we’re nuts. I mean, I’ve got ‘em on film. After the second step was in the ground, he’s made contact on. It’s supposed to be an automatic penalty. It’s got to be an emphasis. They’re vulnerable.
“That’s where you talk about some harsh penalties I think need to be, when you’re late hitting a quarterback. You’re talking about kicking guys out when you hit ‘em in the head, when you late hit a quarterback completely, you’re really doing some things. In the NFL some of them guys they’d have thrown them in jail. He was banged and bruised, but a majority of it came with late stuff. I’m not criticizing officials, but I think it’s got be an emphasis and I’m going to push for it.”
Fisher essentially reiterated comments he made last October, when he first said he wanted harsher penalties for late hits on quarterbacks after watching Francois get hit repeatedly against Clemson (and Miami before that).
But this time, he went a step further, saying he wanted to bring the topic to ACC spring meetings to see whether there would be enough momentum to turn it into a national discussion about how to better protect the quarterback.
Francois was sacked 36 times last season. Only three roughing-the-passer penalties were called on opponents throughout the course of the season.
“We’ll talk about it,” Fisher said. “I’m not criticizing [officials]. They’ve all got tough jobs. But I think it has to be brought to the attention of people because of safety issues. We’re talking about the head injuries and concussions, that’s the most vulnerable guy on the field by far.
“It has to be a college football thing, not an ACC thing. Just like they erred on the side of protection with hits down the field, you’ve got to do the same thing with quarterbacks. That’s the only way you’re going to get people off of them, in my opinion.”
Fisher also suggested “some of these late, late [hits], ought to be the same ejection -- even if it’s low -- as you get for the illegal head shots down field. And as I say we led the nation in sacks, so you’re talking to a guy that it’s going to impact our team, too, but you’ve got to play the game the right way.”
When asked whether he thought teams were deliberately hitting Francois, Fisher said no.
“I’m not saying that,” Fisher said. “I just think we all do what we’re allowed to get away with, and our team the same way. I’m not playing it one way or the other. I just think as a rule itself it needs to be emphasized.”