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SEC Media Days keep rolling

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 31, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Reporters seeking answers from outspoken South Carolina head football coach Lou Holtz received the coach's thoughts on his team and the game a little differently this year at the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days on Wednesday.
The Gamecocks coach had to address the media via speakerphone because of bad weather that would not allow his plane to land.
The abnormal question and answer session with reporters didn't keep the 32-year coaching veteran from famously talking down his team.
He called it the program's "darkest" time since his first year, when the Gamecocks went 0-11.
Final year with a Manning
Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe hasn't looked at a depth chart without a Manning's name on it somewhere in nine years.
From Peyton Manning in Tennessee to Eli Manning at Ole Miss, the 25-year coaching veteran is entering his last season with the last name that is almost synonymous with quarterback.
One busy Gator
Expect to see Florida's Keiwan Ratliff a lot this season.
The senior from Columbus, Ohio, will once again be used on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field in 2003.
Ratliff split time at cornerback and wide receiver last season, tallying one interception and 53 tackles to go with four catches for 58 yards.
The multidimensional player was the only Division I-A player to return an interception for a touchdown and catch a touchdown pass.
Filling Rex Grossman's shoes
Rex Grossman's decision to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft left a big hole in the Gators' lineup.
Zook's search for the latest player to take the snap at Quarterback U has left many people wondering if a freshman may be lining up under center for Florida this year.
Rookie quarterback Chris Leak has already turned one skeptic to his side Keiwan Ratliff.
Leak certainly has the credentials to be an impact quarterback in the SEC. His 185 touchdown passes are a national high school record and his 15,593 career passing yards rank second.
He will have to beat out versatile sophomore Ingle Martin and redshirt freshman Gavin Dickey, both also former Parade All-Americans.
No more halo rule
College football will eliminate the halo rule this season, forcing punt returners to call a fair catch if they don't want to be hit.
Under the halo rule, the kicking team was penalized if a player came within two yards of a returner before he caught the ball. The rule led to many borderline penalties and gave the returner a cushion as he tried to get away from the initial tackle.
This year, a returner must be given only an "unimpeded opportunity" to catch the ball, which is more in line with the NFL rule. The penalty for failing to do that or for contacting a player who has signaled for a fair catch will be 15 yards.
Also, if a receiver muffs a ball on a fair catch he can't be hit until it touches the ground or is out of his reach.
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Other rule changes for 2003
Officials will enforce an unsportsmanlike penalty after a touchdown on a kickoff instead of the extra point.
Gaston found that the punishment was not significant enough on the extra point, with teams making more than 98 percent of their kicks from the 18-yard line instead of the 3 and not gaining an advantage from starting 1 1/2 yards out either.
The new rule will force a team to kick off from the 20 or allow them to kick off from midfield, making a significant difference in field position, especially late in a game.
There also will be a few minor changes in limiting the situations a player in motion can block below the waist, and in not starting the clock on kickoffs until the ball is legally touched in the field of play.