SEC suspends Gamecocks' Swearinger for helmet hit

Monday, September 17, 2012 | 10:53 p.m. CDT
South Carolina free safety, D.J. Swearinger (36) celebrates with teammate Jadeveon Clowney, right, after scoring a touchdown following a fumble recovery during the first half of Saturday's game against UAB at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Southeastern Conference suspended free safety D.J. Swearinger for a game after his hit on a defenseless UAB receiver.

The announcement Monday means Swearinger will miss the seventh-ranked Gamecocks' game this weekend against Missouri.

A personal foul was called against Swearinger after he launched into UAB's Patrick Hearn while breaking up a pass in the third quarter Saturday. The side of Swearinger's helmet crashed into Hearn's facemask. Both players stayed in the game.

Swearinger's immediate backup on the depth chart is walk on Jared Shaw, but the team hopes to get Akeem Auguste back on the field this weekend after surgery in August on his right thigh muscle.

Swearinger had a 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown against UAB and an interception against East Carolina along with 10 total tackles this season.

The senior posted a video of the hit on his Twitter account, writing "Big hit against uab!!!" The post was deleted just minutes after the suspension was announced.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said he would talk about the suspension at his news conference Tuesday.

Spurrier pointed out Sunday that a Vanderbilt player was given a 15-yard penalty but no suspension for a similar hit against Gamecocks tight end Justice Cunningham.

"It's sort of interesting. If you hit him right in the knees when the ball gets there or right in the belly, I guess that's OK. But anything above the shoulders is considered off limits right now," Spurrier said.

The SEC responded with a statement saying that the Commodores Andre Hal didn't lower his head and most of the contact was to Cunningham's shoulder. The glancing blow to the helmet was what prompted the penalty but wasn't enough for a suspension.

In Swearinger's case, "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," the SEC said in its statement.

Spurrier also said he thinks the NCAA should protect quarterbacks after they release a pass. Gamecocks QB Connor Shaw was knocked out of the UAB game after a brutal hit reinjured his slightly fractured shoulder blade on his throwing arm right after he released a 20-yard completion.

"In the NFL, they protect them a little bit better than we do in college," Spurrier said of quarterbacks. "We do everything to protect helmet-to-helmet injuries and protecting defenseless players. But to me, after the quarterback has thrown the ball and you know he has already thrown the ball, that should be a defenseless player."

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