SEC Notebook: Numbers a problem for Tide

July 30, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

HOOVER, Ala. - The team is low on scholarships and will have to rely on numerous young players, but is coming off probation and is eligible to play in a bowl game for extra motivation.

It's almost the same scenario Kentucky had last year. This season it is Alabama coming off NCAA sanctions and counting on incoming freshmen for needed depth as it tries to improve on last year's 4-9 finish under first-year coach Mike Shula.

"There could be 10 to 13 freshmen on the field this year, with a couple even starting," said Shula here Thursday during the Southeastern Conference Media Days.

He'll bring the Crimson Tide to Kentucky to play Oct. 9. Last year Alabama beat Kentucky 24-21.

"Being bowl eligible definitely is motivating," Shula said. "I don't want our team to just worry about going to a bowl. That will take care of itself. But a lot of guys want to end their careers in style."


Shula expects no more than 74 scholarship players to report for practice in less than two weeks. That's about the same number of scholarship players Kentucky will have after suffering through three years of NCAA sanctions.

"When your numbers are down, it really takes a toll on your depth," Shula said. "I know Kentucky knows that because they have the same problem. You just can't be afraid to play young, untested players. If you need help, you play the best guys you have. If they are new to the team, so be it."

Shula shifted personnel in the spring to try and bolster his team's depth. He's also hoping to avoid the rash of injuries that limited key personnel, including quarterback Brodie Croyle, last year.

"There is such a fine line that separates winning and losing in this league. Any team you play can beat you if you don't come with your best game," Shula said.

Like Kentucky almost did last year?

"We were fortunate to make some plays at key times," Shula said. "But we know how difficult a game we are going to have up there. They could have beat us at home. They have good players, too. It will just be one of many difficult games we are going to have this year."

Extra game: Kentucky coach Rich Brooks is not in favor of allowing teams to play a 12th game every year unless the extra revenue goes to football and not other sports.

"If they put the game in, all the money ought to go to football," Brooks said. "The only reason for the game is to support other sports.

"A 12th game would be too much of a burden. If we can go to a 12th game, then why not a four-team playoff (for the national championship) after the bowl games?

"So am I for it? No. Every third or fourth year, it's not a bad idea. But 12 regular-season games every year is too many."

New rules: Several new rules have been passed for this college football season.

If the kickoff team is offsides, the receiving team will now have the option of adding the five-yard penalty to the end of the return or making the kicking team kick again. If the kick is a touchback, the receiving team could have the ball put at the 25-yard line rather than the 20.

Punting teams no longer can fool the defense with a high, deep pass designed to look like a punt.

"You can't simulate a kick and have the punter throw the ball deep," Bobby Gaston, the SEC coordinator of football officials, said. "The punter can still throw, but it must be an obvious pass."

A defender blocked into the passer will not be called for roughing the passer as long as no attempt is made to add to his own impetus after the block. Also linebackers leaping to block an extra point or field goal who run forward will be penalized if they land on an opponent.

Gaston also noted that offensive teams will not be allowed to "rush to the line and snap the ball to put the defense at a disadvantage." Officials will give the defense time to react to changes the offense makes.

He also said that the Big Ten is experimenting with instant replay this year for all league games.

"The SEC coaches have not shown any desire for instant replay," Gaston said.

Quotable: South Carolina Lou Holtz had this to say when asked what he thought about Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer not coming here Thursday because he feared he would be served with a subpoena.

"I would rather talk to lawyers than the media," Holtz said.

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