Former Gator Jon Bostic’s tackle causing controversy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In his final game for the Gators, linebacker Jon Bostic delivered the most memorable hit of his college career when he drilled Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater so hard that Bridgewater’s helmet went flying.

Bostic was penalized on a play that only Louisville fans probably viewed as dirty. ESPN color commentator Chris Spielman, a former NFL linebacker who was working the game with play-by-play man Sean McDonough, praised Bostic’s hit as clean when it happened.

In days gone by, Bostic’s hit might not have drawn a flag, but with extra emphasis on player safety — especially protecting the quarterback — the Gators were flagged 15 yards.

Bostic’s hard-hitting style is already a hot topic in the NFL.

The NFL fined Bostic $21,000 Wednesday for his hit on San Diego receiver Mike Willie in a preseason game last week. Adding to the surprise Wednesday is that officials did not flag Bostic during the game.

The fine drew instant criticism from fans, media commentators and Bostic’s Chicago teammates.

“You have to continue to play the best way you know how and that’s what he was doing,” Bostic’s teammate, Lance Briggs, told The Chicago Tribune. “None of the referees seemed to think there was anything wrong with the play. He could have allowed the receiver to run him over — that’s another technique. We could play the catch technique, we could take a charge, I don’t know, you have to play football.”

A tweet earlier in the day by Briggs sparked the conversation about Bostic’s hit.

Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, Bostic’s position coach last season, was asked about his former pupil’s hit on Wednesday.

“I think that was such a bang-bang play,” Durkin said. “Obviously I don’t think he was intending to do anything with it. I was just texting with him a little bit ago, ‘you just got fined … the good news is you’ve got money now you can go pay that.”

With new NCAA targeting rules going into effect this season, Florida’s coaching staff has spent time in fall camp stressing the importance of making wise decisions to avoid penalties and potential ejections.

The NFL’s decision to fine Bostic (photo, left) has blurred the line even more of what is acceptable and what’s not on plays that take a split second to unfold.

Durkin said the play resonated with Bostic’s former Florida teammates.

“It was pretty popular,” Durkin said. “Coaches, players — everyone looked at it. Obviously we’re all really proud of him. You can’t find a better guy than Jon Bostic to represent our program. All the guys feel strongly about that, so everyone was talking about it.”

Bostic told reporters Wednesday that he simply reacted and was not trying to hurt Willie.

“It’s really just trying to get the ball back to the offense,” Bostic said. “It’s more about taking the ball off ball carriers. It’s not so much sending a message. We’re just doing what we can do create as many turnovers as we can.”