* University of South Carolina head football coach Lou Holtz, along with senior players Travelle Wharton and Dunta Robinson, were unable to make the trip to Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday for the annual SEC Football Media Days due to threatening weather. The Gamecock contingent, which was scheduled to depart Owens Field in Columbia at 9:30 a.m. (eastern time) via the athletics department airplane, waited until 10 a.m. before Kevin Preisendorf, the athletics department's pilot, made the decision to not attempt the trip. Preisendorf said that according to the radar and ground reports he had received that morning, making the flight to the Bessemer (Ala.) Airport would be "ill-advised" and he recommended against it. Therefore, Coach Holtz, Wharton and Robinson participated in a teleconference and a video satellite feed early Wednesday afternoon from Columbia.
* When asked about not being able to make the trip, Coach Holtz recalled the time following his first season at USC (December, 1999), when the athletics department plane had dropped him off for a recruiting visit down near Beaufort, S.C., and then crashed 11 miles away while attempting to refuel. The chief pilot, Dewey Foster, was killed, and the co-pilot, Joe Baier, was seriously injured. "I defer to the pilot's judgment," said Holtz. "If he says we shouldn't go, then we're not going."
* Coach Holtz downplayed the expectations for this year's edition of the Gamecocks. "We didn't play well at the end of last season (lost final five games)," said Holtz. "We lost four of five starters along the offensive line; we have an unproven quarterback' we're unsettled at running back; we haven't had any playmakers at receiver; we've changed defenses; we lost our punter and our placekicker was inconsistent last year; and our schedule is as difficult as it's been (face eight bowl teams from a year ago). Other than that, things are looking pretty positive."
* Coach Holtz said he did like the attitude of this year's club. "This should be a fun team to watch," said Holtz. "They are like family. They may not have the same last name, but they are like a family. I can't tell you how good we will be, but I do think we will be fun to watch."
* Coach Holtz said last year was history and that it was time to bury the memories of losing the final five games. "People keep asking me about last year," said Holtz. "I get tired of talking about it. We lost to some pretty good football teams down the stretch - Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee, Florida and Clemson. It wasn't like we were losing to Our Sisters of Mercy. Sure, we were disappointed in how we finished. Hopefully, we can do something about that this season."
* Coach Holtz said that his wife, Beth, has been in Orlando, Fla., the past several weeks, after it was determined that she had fluid in her lungs. "Beth's energy level isn't what it needs to be, but she is hanging in there," said Holtz. "She has some more tests scheduled at the Mayo Clinic (in Jackonsville, Fla.) in the middle of August, and hopefully, we will get some answers then."
* Travelle Wharton, a preseason All-SEC selection at offensive tackle, believes the Gamecock offense will be more productive in 2003. "I think we will come together as an offense," said Wharton. "We may be young along the line, but the guys have really worked hard and I think things will click for us."
* Wharton had tested the waters with the NFL draft in the late winter, but opted to return for his senior season at Carolina. "The main thing was I wanted to complete my degree," said Wharton. "I had some academic difficulties when I first came to school (had to sit out the first semester), but now I am on track to graduate in December. That means a lot to mom and I. Plus, I didn't want to to go out on a 5-7 season."
* Dunta Robinson, likewise a preseason All-SEC cornerback candidate, said the move to the new defense should bode well for the team. "I think you will see a more aggressive and blitzing style of defense," said Robinson. "We're going to try to pressure the quarterback more and make him have to throw before he's ready to throw. I know I liked what I saw of the new defense in the spring."
* Robinson said he has taken on the role of team captain with a serious demeanor. "It's a big responsibility, and one that I take very seriously," said Robinson. "I'm not a real loud talker on the field, but if it's necessary for me to get in someone's face and make a point, believe me, I will."
* South Carolina's team reports Aug. 4. The first day of practice is Aug. 5. Preseason photo/media day is set for Aug. 8. A complete preseason media schedule should be distributed later this week.
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