No 'Halo' For Vasher: Is This Good For 'PR'?

The NCAA has eliminated the so-called &quot;halo&quot; rule this season, intended to protect punt returners but was so erratically enforced that it penalized coverage teams in more ways than one. The kicking team was flagged if a cover man came within two yards of a punt returner before he fielded the ball. But what does it mean for players like senior CB/PR <B>Nathan Vasher</B>?

"From what I can remember, we had the halo my sophomore year," Vasher said Wednesday, "and that was one of my better years of returning punts, so I think it will work out."

Vasher returned 37 punts for a school record 554 yards and one TD during his sophomore campaign. His 15-yard return average ranked sixth nationally and third on Texas’ single-season list. Despite battling ankle sprains throughout his junior year, he returned 26 punts for 370 yards (14.2-yard average, NCAA No. 19). He also had a 39-yard kickoff return at Nebraska.

The new NCAA statute is now more consistent with the NFL rule that states a returner must be given an "unimpeded opportunity" to catch the ball. It obviously remains a judgment call but hopefully will eliminate the flags that were frustratingly thrown when the nearest cover man was a good five yards away from the PR.

Those who have seen Vasher return punts know that the new rule probably won’t translate into more ‘fair catches’ on his part.

"The main reason to have it (halo rule) is to protect the athlete returning punts and I think it will still hold true in calling fair catches," Vasher added.

With 25 career starts, Vasher ranks among UT’s all-time top 10 with 11 interceptions (T-No. 8) and 38 pass breakups (No. 7). He has also tallied 112 tackles (85 solo) and nine tackles for loss during 34 career games. Vasher tied the school record for single-season interceptions (7) as a sophomore before battling injuries in 2002, Vasher posted four interceptions and 15 pass breakups and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors during his junior campaign.

Note: Vasher and FS Dakarai Pearson are on the 2003 Jim Thorpe Award's (presented annually to the nation's best college defensive back) preseason watch list. Texas has had a Thorpe finalist and semifinalist the past two seasons. CB Quentin Jammer, a 2002 first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, became Texas' first-ever finalist for the Thorpe Award in 2001. CB Rod Babers, a fourth-round pick of the New York Giants, was a semifinalist in 2002.

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