This is an article from the Sept. 10, 1979 issue
Give a Top-20 coach half a chance to point out his squad's chief weakness, and he'll gratefully pounce on it. Why? Because by mentioning even the smallest of defects he spotted in his juggernaut during spring practice, he may well save his job come late fall. But ask John Robinson what USC lacks and he's stumped. After hemming and hawing, the best he can come up with is, "Talented players don't always repeat productive seasons."
Preseason pickers like to cover themselves, too. So we'll try to help Robinson out. Uh, well, there are nearly a dozen regulars from last year's UPI national championship team coming off injuries, and, uh, six games are on the road. But in all honesty, all of those players were hale last week, and aside from trips to Notre Dame and Washington, the road schedule isn't threatening. Certainly not nearly as intimidating as the Trojans who will be making those journeys. Among them are 15 returning starters, including lefthanded Paul McDonald, the only proven star at quarterback on the three or four teams that figure to be vying for No. 1. Last year McDonald completed 57% of his passes for 1,690 yards and outfoxed enemy defenders for a Trojan-record 19 touchdowns. Based on the NFL formula for rating quarterbacks (a computation that weighs percentage of completions, touchdowns, interceptions and yards per pass attempt), McDonald had a 101.6 rating—which is higher than that for any of the last 19 Pac 10 (or Pac 8 as it was known until the 1978 season) passing champions.
McDonald will often throw to Kevin (Scoring Bug) Williams, a 5'8", 155-pound former California prep 100-yard sprint champion (9.4), who converted 10 of his 17 receptions into touchdowns last season. Still, the passing game produced only 38% of USC's 4,979 total yards, and because Charles White (page 34) is returning at tailback, it's safe to assume that percentage will not rise. All-America Guard Pat Howell is gone, but otherwise the line is intact and so mammoth that one dog-whipped opponent exclaimed, "When they stand up, they see Denver." Brad Budde, an All-America candidate at guard, is 6'5", 253 pounds, and Tackle Anthony Munoz (who also pitched in relief on the Trojans' No. 1-ranked baseball team in 1978) is 6'7", 280. Line Coach Hudson Houck won't soon forget how Munoz drove a defender from the 15-yard line all the way back into a goalpost last season.
In 1978 USC yielded just 91.3 yards a game rushing, second-lowest in the nation behind Penn State. Linebacker Dennis Johnson, last season's leading tackier, is back, and Ty Sperling is the starter at nose guard—no big fall-off there, considering that against UCLA last year, with a Rose Bowl berth at stake, he sacked the Bruin quarterback for losses of 12, 12 and nine yards.
And here's one more non-excuse for Robinson. Joe Terranova, a market researcher who watches hundreds of high school game films a year and reports on who does best in the scramble for high school prospects, concludes that USC came out on top for the second straight year. If you doubt that opinion, perhaps you'd like to debate it with any of the seven freshmen linemen Robinson landed. They average out to 6'5" and 243 pounds.
"We're faced with the myth that our athletes are invincible," says Robinson, still scratching. "We like it, but it's still a myth." So are national championships, and they are liked, too. Barring an epidemic of swelled heads, USC should win its ninth.
Not long after Alabama's Sugar Bowl upset of top-ranked Penn State in January—which earned the Tide the No. 1 rating in the AP poll, Coach Bear Bryant cracked a few ribs and was taken to the hospital. News reports said that Bryant hurt himself when he fell stepping out of the shower, but the real story, as Alabamans tell it, is that while Bear was out walking his ducks, he was hit by a motorboat. Among card-carrying Crimson Tide rooters such deification is understandable. Though national titles elsewhere are as rare as a 'Bama undergraduate who has never heard of parlay cards, Bryant has won five in 21 seasons at Alabama.
This year, thoughts of anything less than a clean sweep in the regular season and another national title are considered heretical in Tuscaloosa. After all, 'Bama has never lost more than one game in a season following a No. 1 ranking. And the schedule is heaven-sent, with workouts against Georgia Tech, Baylor, Wichita State and Miami replacing tests against the sterner likes of Nebraska, USC, Missouri and Washington. As one student entrepreneur observed, "I guess Bear is mad at the scalpers. We'll have to come up with something to unload our tickets."
Bryant's biggest task will be replacing Quarterback Jeff Rutledge, a three-year starter who threw 30 touchdown passes to break a Tide record held by Joe Namath. Steadman Shealy, a typically handsome, blond, blue-eyed Omicron Delta Kappa who last fall ran and passed—he completed nine of 14 attempts—for 473 yards as Rutledge's understudy, gets first crack at the job. But Shealy has undergone knee surgery, and "He's not as quick as he once was," world-class pessimist Bryant says. But even Bear is obliged to add, "Still, he's not slow crippled."
Otherwise, the offense is robust. Split End Keith Pugh twists, lunges, soars (pick any two on a given pass play) as he makes eye-popping catches. Halfbacks Major Ogilvie and Mitch Ferguson and Fullback Billy Jackson all gained 5.5 yards or more a carry. The line features a trio of All-SEC blockers: Dwight Stephenson, Jim Bunch and Mike Brock.
On defense, 'Bama has lost five stars, among them first-round NFL picks Barry Krauss, a linebacker, and Marty Lyons, a tackle. But the line still includes faces all too familiar to Penn State—Byron Baggs, Curtis McGriff and Wayne Hamilton. And if Tackle David Hannah, a 1977 starter who missed '78 because of a knee injury, stays as fit as he was in the spring, Bryant can buttress the secondary by shifting All-SEC E. J. Junior from the line to safety.
The Tide has seven home games, four of them in Tuscaloosa, where it has won 45 straight. The big one won't come until...the Sugar Bowl against—Notre Dame? Georgia? Penn State? The only regular-season upset possibilities would seem to be in an October outing at Florida and in the season finale against archrival Auburn.
Not that Bryant agrees. "In the first place," he growls, "the schedule isn't easy. In the second place, every one of those teams would rather beat Alabama than anybody they play." Hey, Bear, you just won another award—from the Tuscaloosa Scalpers' Society.
If there's one thing Nebraskans love even more than seeing Running Back I. M. Hipp break a tackle on the way to another 200-yard game (he's rushed for that distance or more in three games), it's a bonfire. Like the blaze before the Corn-huskers upset No. 1-ranked Oklahoma last November, which, among other things, was fueled by a piano, beds, police barricades and several vending machines. Or the one during spring practice in April when six live turkeys got barbecued.
The ASPCA rightfully hit the roof, and Lincoln cops moved in to make arrests. They collared three Cornhusker players, who subsequently were arraigned. There was no excuse for such behavior, because the players should have had more than their fill of roasting turkeys—read opponents—on the field.
In '78 Nebraska incinerated six teams and made the Top Ten in the polls for a 10th straight year. Nonetheless the season was a disappointment. Late in the fourth quarter of the finale against Missouri, the Huskers led 31-28 and appeared to be headed for the Orange Bowl to play Penn State for the national title. But the Tigers rallied to win 35-31, and Nebraska was rematched against Oklahoma, in the Orange Bowl, with no chance of becoming No. 1.
But, disappointments aside, last year provided some heady portents for this season. Moreover, during the regular season Nebraska averaged 501.4 yards a game. Because the ballcarriers who amassed 73% of the rushing yardage and the receivers who caught 81% of the passes are still on hand, the Huskers figure to be tougher than they've been since they won the national championships in 1970 and '71, especially because they'll be driven by the desire to gobble up the honors they missed last year.
No Nebraskan is more fired up than Tight End Junior Miller, whose 33 receptions produced five touchdowns and 609 yards. After he caught five passes and ran roughshod over Kansas State, Wildcat Coach Jim Dickey groaned, "The way he mowed down our defensive backs, maybe the Humane Society ought to send him a letter." The Huskers will also throw to Tim Smith, the No. 3 receiver in 1978 despite doubling as a play messenger. Or to Wingback Kenny Brown, a breakaway threat any time he has the ball down-field, who, former Coach Bob Devaney says, "is as valuable to this team as Johnny Rogers was to the 1970 and '71 national champions." And then there's Hipp, the first Nebraska runner to gain 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. The Huskers do have to replace Quarterback Tom Sorley, an able runner and a 58% passer. Candidates Jeff Quinn, Mark Mauer and Bruce Mathison all have promise.
The defense will field 17 lettermen, including nine of the top 10 linemen who helped Nebraska lead the Big Eight in stopping the rush last season. Unfortunately, the offensive line is in nowhere near as good shape, having lost two sets of quality tackles and guards.
Forgotten in the Chuck Fairbanks-Colorado-Boston Patriots sitcom of last spring was that Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne was offered the Colorado job first. Osborne also holds a doctorate in educational psychology. He didn't turn Colorado down just to watch bonfires.
When Coach Fred Akers took over in 1977, he inherited a once-proud team that had a 5-5-1 record. He figured he would be lucky to match that if he let things remain the way they were. So he retooled the offense, turning Earl Campbell loose. The Longhorns finished 11-1, and Campbell was voted the Heisman Trophy.
Then in 1978 Akers, who had few holdover stars, was forced to play eight freshmen in key positions and watched as his team suffered nearly as many injuries as Leonidas' boys did at Thermopylae. Even so, Texas ended up ranked ninth in the country. No wonder there's a consensus abuilding that Akers is fast becoming—I'll finish this thought in a moment, then back to you, Keith—some kind of coach.
If there are any doubters left, Akers should convert them this fall. With 20 first-teamers back, he has the wherewithal to mount a serious challenge for the national title. Once again, Texas' strength lies in its defense. There are nine starters on hand from the 1978 unit that gave up only 104.6 yards a game rushing and was the SWC's toughest to score on. Ricky Churchman, Derrick Hatchett and All-America Johnnie Johnson are mainstays in a secondary that held Rice, TCU and SMU, the conference's three top passing teams, to zero touchdowns. The luminaries up front are Steve McMichael, called Bam-Bam by his teammates, who made a team-high 142 tackles, and Bill Acker, whose specialties are sacks (14) and forcing fumbles (six).
Texas fans gasped last May when it was reported that McMichael had reached under the hood of his car while the engine was on and got his hands caught in the fan. The cuts have all healed, and surprisingly, the fan wasn't damaged. What has been damaged is the Longhorn kicking game, now that All-America Russell Erxleben has moved on to the New Orleans Saints. But even here Akers is not without a leg up; freshman Jeff Guy and sophomore John Good-son are both bright prospects.
Quarterback Donnie Little's fumbling on national TV—he lost the ball twice before network cameras—is not the habit viewers might suppose it to be. Though Little completed just 16 of 52 passes last fall, he excelled in spring drills, and Akers is confident that Texas' aerial game will be improved. "Donnie developed more poise and a stronger arm," Akers says. Little's running has never been questioned.
The offensive line has experience, as does the starting backfield. But depth is a concern. One thing the Longhorns don't lack, however, is Joneses. Though Running Back Ham is gone, Lam, Jam and Ram are back and are rarin' to go. Lam is Johnny Jones, the 1976 Olympic gold-medalist who led Texas in receptions (25) last year. Jam is actually A.J. Jones, who as a freshman was the leading Longhorn rusher in 1978. Ram is Jones Ramsey, 58, Texas' sports publicist who created the nicknames.
The Longhorn schedule reads like an AP poll. The non-conference opponents include Missouri and Oklahoma, and in the SWC, Texas must play Arkansas, Houston, Texas A&M and SMU—on the road. If none of those teams is at the Cotton Bowl come January, Texas will be there. And no doubt you'll be hearing how Akers did it again.
By his own admission, Mark Herrmann is a stick-in-the-mud, more in the mold of Andy Hardy than Tony Manero. He still dates his high school sweetheart. His best friend has been his best friend since childhood. Evenings he usually stays in the Sigma Chi house. He admits that he has to force himself to socialize with his teammates and says that although he is a junior he is just beginning to know them well. "I think we've got a mutual respect," Herrmann says. "I can give constructive criticism or compliments now." Of course, a stick-in-the-mud is usually calm and controlled at all times, which is just dandy for Herrmann on the field but makes him something of an oddball in West Lafayette these days.
Aside from Herrmann just about everybody at Purdue is gaga because this could be the year the Boilermakers crack the Michigan-Ohio axis that has ruled the Big Ten for the last 11 years. "You walk around campus and you hear people say, 'We've ordered our tickets for Pasadena, we're going to the Rose Bowl,' " Herrmann says. "Well, I haven't ordered my tickets yet." Herrmann is the man responsible for the state of excitement. He has already passed for 4,357 yards and has only to surpass Chicago Bear Mike Phipps and Miami Dolphin Bob Griese to become Purdue's No. 1 alltime quarterback. "Yeah, but my arm could be stronger," Herrmann says. "And my legs and upper body."
Herrmann cut his interceptions from 27 in '77 to 12 last year, and he hit on 55.5% of his passes—14 for touchdowns. Suddenly Purdue, which hadn't had a winning season since 1972, soared to 9-2-1, beat Ohio State for the first time since 1967 and got a bowl bid (Peach), only its second in 91 years. Bid No. 3 should be forthcoming this November. An invitation to the Rose Bowl isn't too farfetched—not with Ohio State off the schedule. And not with all 11 offensive starters from the Peach Bowl team back, including Running Back John Macon (913 yards in '78) and receivers Mike Harris, Bart Burrell and Dave Young.
In fact, the Boilermakers have an embarrassment of riches and are in a quandary about finding room for blue-chip freshman Running Back Jimmy Smith, a speedster who handled six kickoffs and returned four of them for touchdowns for Westview high school in Kankakee, Ill. How highly sought was Smith? Well, Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer thought enough of him to phone Smith's coach from New York the night Billy Sims got the Heisman Trophy.
The team's flex defense, patterned in part on that of the Dallas Cowboys, features Purdue's alltime leading tackier, Linebacker Kevin Motts, and All-Big Ten linemen Ken Loushin and Keena Turner. In 1978, Turner tackled opponents for losses 25 times for a total of 201 yards. Three-fourths of the secondary is new, and Coach Jim Young needs replacements at punter and placekicker. Not to worry. Assessing safeties Tim Seneff and Bill Kay, defensive coordinator Leon Burtnett says, "Abilitywise, they're better than what we had last year." And freshman placekicker Walt Drapeza booted a 50-yarder in high school.
"Our starting defense has the ability to be great," Burtnett beams.
"It's the finest recruiting year I've ever had as a coach," chimes in Young.
"We'll be No. 1," is the boast frequently heard at the Chocolate Shoppe, a local bar.
"I hope folks aren't expecting too much," says Herrmann.
6. Penn State
Two years ago Dayle Tate broke his hand. Sorry to hear that, Dayle—whoever you are—but what's that got to do with the Top 20? Well, Dayle Tate is an extremely promising quarterback who has spent the last couple of seasons not playing behind Chuck Fusina at Penn State. Oh, sure, he's gotten into a few games, like last year's early-season outing against Rutgers. Tate suffered a broken collarbone in that one. Thus, in two seasons Tate has played less than one quarter of varsity ball. But now that Fusina, who holds just about every Nittany Lion individual passing and offensive record, is gone, Tate, a junior, is the man. If he goes down, so does Penn State.
"Those broken bones were difficult to cope with," he says. "For me, Jesus was the answer. If I play, I'll praise the Lord, and if not, I'll praise Him anyway. But I have a feeling my time has come."
If he's right, the Nittany Lions could string together a second straight season of the type of football the East is supposed to produce about once a decade. Last year Penn State merely went 11-1, achieved No. 1 ranking for the first time in its 92-year history, slipping to No. 4 only after losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The chances for just such a repeat look good. Tate's performance in the spring game was astonishing—19 for 43 for 257 yards and a touchdown. And the forward wall of the nation's No. 1 defense (it allowed only 54.5 yards rushing a game) returns pretty much intact. And in Booker Moore, Mike Guman and Matt Suhey, the Nittany Lions have a set of running backs that accounted for 1,673 yards and 15 of the team's 21 touchdowns last season.
Defensive tackles Matt Millen and Bruce Clark and leading sacker Larry Kubin join three other 1978 starters on a unit that forced turnovers resulting in 101 points—or 9.2 a game. Because State yielded only 8.8 points a game, how effective does the offense have to be? Clark (270 pounds) won the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman or linebacker, and Millen (255) was among the four finalists for the award. Back, too, is Linebacker Lance Mehl, the team's leading tackier last season.
There could be shortcomings in the defensive backfield, because several erstwhile starters—most notably Pete Harris, who led the nation with 10 interceptions—are academically ineligible. Coach Joe Paterno got that bad news just as fall practice began, but he had worked Grover Edwards at Harris' safety spot in the spring and was pleased. Thus, the question is not whether State's defense will be good, but whether it will be good enough to rival last season's. That unit held Alabama 16.1 points under its scoring average and shut out Ohio State, which ranked among the national leaders with 29.5 points a game.
All-America Placekicker Matt Bahr now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Herb Menhardt booted 50-and 32-yard field goals in the spring game, and Brian Franco kicked one from 42 yards out. Paterno's only serious concern is the offensive line, which he spent most of spring drills rebuilding. Paterno would like the time to develop the young line slowly, but he'll not have that luxury. After opening against Rutgers, the Lions face Texas A&M on Sept. 22 and Nebraska at Lincoln on Sept. 29.
That's when Tate will know for sure if, praise the Lord, this time his time finally has come.
You can tell Vince Dooley has a real shot at dumping Alabama off its perch at the top of the Southeastern Conference this fall because he is beginning to sound just like Bear Bryant. Bryant is as famous for poor-mouthing his squad's chances in the spring and summer as Alabama is famous for winning in the fall. But Dooley is catching on. Listen: "Our No. 1 problem is finding individuals to fill key positions," he says. "And though it's a problem on offense, it's more acute on defense."
Dooley warmed up his act last year, predicting all manner of dire doings in Athens during the 1978 season. But the Bulldogs surprised everybody by going 9-2-1. This year, mainly because the two fine quarterbacks who led that team are still around and have plenty to work with, Georgia might be even better, never mind what Dooley says. Moreover, because Alabama isn't on the schedule, Georgia has a chance of going undefeated in the SEC. Even Alabama can't top that.
On defense, Dooley's philosophy has always been: if you dress, you play. So, although five 1978 starters are gone, 19 lettermen are back, including the entire secondary. Georgia has some good ones up front, too, especially two-year starters Robert Goodwin, Jimmy Payne and Eddie (Meat Cleaver) Weaver. Last season Payne came out of nowhere—which is to say, high school—to lead the Bulldogs in sacks, with eight. Though he's also only a sophomore, Weaver, a six-foot, 273-pound guard, is already acclaimed the Bulldogs' strongest defender ever.
Jeff Pyburn, the No. 1 quarterback and a 54% passer, is: a) the son of the defensive secondary coach, Jim Pyburn; b) teacher of Bible classes; and c) married to a recently crowned Georgia beauty queen. Behind him is Buck Belue, who is single, stronger of arm and pushing hard to take Pyburn's job away. It was Belue who rallied the Bulldogs from a 0-20 deficit to a 29-28 victory over Georgia Tech to close out their regular season with a win over their traditional rival. Both quarterbacks will throw often to Lindsay Scott. Last season he caught 36 passes, was among the national leaders in kickoff returns and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year.
The SEC Player of the Year was Bulldog Tailback Willie McClendon, who now wears the uniform of the Chicago Bears, but his replacement, sophomore Matt Simon, averaged more yards a carry (5.2) than McClendon. Simon will be working behind pretty much the same line that sprung McClendon for 1,312 yards. The best of the blockers, Center Ray Donaldson, is so good that Dooley, stepping out of character, has called him "the best I've had anywhere, ever."
Other pluses: Rex Robinson is an All-SEC placekicker, and Georgia has plenty of depth because, for the second year in a row, Dooley's recruiting was tops in the conference. Among the signees are four running backs who, Dooley says, are ready to play right now, and Dwayne Puckett, a 6'8", 329-pound tackle, who is the largest Bulldog player ever. Heck, he may be the largest person in Georgia ever. So what has Dooley to whine about?
"Last year we were lucky," he moans. "In five games the difference was a total of six points. Turn those points around, and we'd have had a losing season." Well, hang in there, Vince. You figure to be even luckier this year.
8. Notre Dame
Coach Dan Devine surely would prefer something a bit softer, now that he is in the final season of a five-year contract. But there it is—a genuine backbreaker of a schedule. "We face Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State for starters, and we finish up in Tokyo," he says. "Which may not be a bad place for me to set up residence."
No Irish schedule has started out as menacingly as, well, last year's. And Notre Dame fans won't soon forget what happened then. The Irish, the defending national champions, lost both their opener and Game 2, to Missouri and Michigan, for the first time in 82 years. And if that wasn't bad enough, both defeats came in South Bend. As a consequence, Devine appeared to be headed for the same fate as the Studebaker. The irony is that before he got the job, Notre Dame had tough schedules about as often as it recruited 175-pound linemen. For instance, in 1973 and '74, the last two seasons under Devine's predecessor, Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame played Army, Navy, Air Force, Northwestern and Rice—and outscored them 385-37. In contrast, this year's schedule includes six teams invited to 1978 bowls, plus Michigan State, which is the defending Big Ten co-champion and was uninvited only because it was on NCAA probation.
Gone is the Comeback Kid, Quarterback Joe Montana. In his place is Rusty Lisch, an architecture major who was red-shirted last season. Devine had Lisch penciled in as his starting quarterback in 1977. That didn't last very long as Montana made a specialty of coming to the rescue after the Lischled Irish had fallen behind. This season, however, Lisch must work without a net.
But he may not have to worry, because he has strong runners who should keep the Irish in every game. The best of them is Vagas Ferguson, who holds the Notre Dame rushing records for a single game (255 yards vs. Georgia Tech) and a season (1,192), and is just 648 yards shy of passing George Gipp and Jerome Heavens and becoming the leading Irish career ground-gainer. And Vagas doesn't just pile it up against the likes of Georgia Tech: he blasted for 100 yards and the MVP award when Notre Dame beat Texas in the 1978 Cotton Bowl with the national title at stake. Also lining up behind Lisch will be Jim Stone, who is a step faster and a bit more slippery than the usual Irish bulldozer-type halfback, and sophomore Fullback Pete Buchanan, a terror on third-and-short last fall when he bucked in for scores against such superb rushing defenses as Houston's, Tennessee's and Southern California's.
On defense, the Irish are concerned about replacing two linebackers and Tackle Jeff Weston, who was their top tackier (75) in 1978. John Hankerd, a converted linebacker, replaced an injured Scott Zettek at defensive end last season. Zettek hasn't fully recovered, so Hankerd will remain at end. Sophomore Joe Gramke saw considerable playing time as a freshman at end; he is also remembered for tackling Houston Quarterback Danny Davis on fourth and one with two minutes left in the Cotton Bowl game. The Irish won the game on the next possession.
After that 0-2 start last fall, Notre Dame won nine of 10 and jelled into one of the nation's top five or six teams, although the polls didn't place the Irish higher than 10th until they knocked off Southwest Conference champion Houston 35-34 in the Cotton Bowl.
"We'll have a good first unit on defense, a good first team on offense," Devine says. "But we'll need help from freshmen and players coming off injuries." If Lisch and the younger Irish aren't overwhelmed in the early going, Notre Dame could win nine again. And a new contract for Devine.
9. Texas A&M
After five games last season, the Aggies were unbeaten and ranked No. 5, but then underdog Houston poleaxed them 33-0 and the next week Baylor, of all teams, upset them in College Station. A&M fans were not happy. And three days later Coach Emory Bellard resigned. His offensive coordinator, Tom Wilson, was handed a whistle and told to do what he could. On the first play under Wilson, the Aggies, strictly a run-run-run wishbone team during Bellard's regime, threw a 53-yard touchdown pass. "Know how long I've wanted to send in that play?" asked Wilson afterward. Right then he installed a flashy I formation, which the Aggie players needed time to master. And the new attack fizzled against Arkansas and Texas, producing just one touchdown in each game, both losses. "Ha!" said the wishbone diehards. "Ha!" said Wilson after his players, having grasped the intricacies of the I, finished the regular season 7-4 and whipsawed Iowa State in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Wilson admits that changing offenses in midseason hurt A&M, but he's sure it was the right move. "It helped recruiting," he says. "And in spring practice, our youngsters knew what we wanted. So playing the I last season smoothed the transition for this year."
During their hybrid season the Aggies scored 263 points and finished No. 2 among Southwest Conference teams in offense (390.5 yards a game) and No. 3 in rushing (272.5 yards). Because Wilson plans to run "the complete I with various motions," the passing attack should improve. "We have to exploit Curtis Dickey and Mike Mosley," he says.
Tailback Dickey, the conference's 100-meter champ (10.2), slashed for 1,146 yards despite injuries that limited him to 205 carries. Wilson wants him to carry the ball 30 to 35 times a game, which means that, should Dickey maintain his 5.6-yards-per-carry average, he will surpass Earl Campbell's alltime SWC single-season record of 1,744 yards. Aggie devotees caught a glimpse of a healthy Dickey running out of the I in the Hall of Fame Bowl, where he exploded for a record 276 yards on 34 carries.
Quarterback Mosley is a remarkable and versatile athlete. Last May, in the conference track and field championships, he was third in the long jump (24'9¾") and fifth in high hurdles (13.8). And like Dickey, he has yet to achieve all that is expected of him in football. He has size (6'2", 180 pounds) and a rifle arm—he completed 80 of 139 passes for 1,157 yards in '78—but until Wilson took over, he had always been a wishbone quarterback. "The passing scheme is new to him," Wilson said at the close of spring drills. "But he made real progress."
Fullback David Brothers returns, but the big news at that position is George Woodard. Literally. As a junior in 1977, Woodard bulled for 1,107 yards to become the all-time leading Aggie rusher. But Big George's weight ballooned with his stats, and by the end of that season he was up to 285 pounds. Then he broke a leg playing soft-ball, went to 305 and was dropped from the football team in 1978. Woodard missed spring practice this year, too, but by July he had shed 50 pounds, and Wilson invited him back to the squad. "Woodard is the ideal fullback for the I," Wilson says.
A&M's defense has a rebuilt secondary and smallish linebackers, but it is ferocious up front, especially at end, where Jacob Green sets up.
The seating capacity of the Aggies' Kyle Field is being expanded by 18,000 seats to 72,000, but the remodeling isn't finished yet. Originally the expansion was to be completed by Sept. 8, the date of the Aggies' home opener against Brigham Young. Then it was rolled back to Oct. 13 for the Houston game. But it rained heavily in April and May, work had to be halted, and all those extra seats have gone aglimmering for this season. That is especially bad news because any little bit of help A&M can get for its home games with SMU, Arkansas and Texas would be appreciated. And the roar of those extra Aggie fans would qualify as a lot of help. Even so, with Woodard reborn and Dickey flying, one bunch should be quiet anyhow—all those wishbone diehards.
Suppose Oklahoma dried up and blew away. Or dropped out of intercollegiate football. Does anyone seriously think that even then it would drop out of the Top 20? In six seasons under Coach Barry Switzer, the Sooners have been 62-6-2; that figures out to a .900 won-lost percentage, the nation's best in that span. What is surprising is finding the Sooners at the bottom of the Top Ten this season, especially since Heisman Trophy winner Bill Sims (page 34) will still be carrying the mail for them. Most years, that would mean a ranking no lower than No. 2, but the losses from the 1978 squad are too great a burden for even Sims to carry. No longer on hand are Outland Trophy winner Greg Roberts and 10 other stars who were gobbled up in the first 12 rounds of the NFL draft. Gone is Place-kicker Uwe von Schamann, who succeeded on seven of 11 field-goal tries and 59 PATs without a miss. Gone is Thomas Lott, whom Switzer calls "the best wishbone quarterback we've ever had at Oklahoma." In all, Switzer will open the season using four new players—three linemen and a linebacker—on defense and seven on offense, including four linemen.
The years of great Sooner quarterbacks are referred to as eras. There was the Bobby Warmack era and the Jack Mildren era. The Steve Davis era and, of course, the Thomas Lott era. Supposedly, 1979 will see the dawning of the Julius Caesar Watts era. J.C., as he is known, saw spot duty last fall, and hit on only 34.2% of his passes. However, Sooner fans need not despair quite yet, because as a senior at Eufaula (Okla.) High in 1975, Watts led the state in passing by throwing for more than 1,000 yards.
Two returnees left in the offensive line that helped Sims immensely in winning the Heisman are 242-pound Center Louis Oubre and 250-pound Guard Paul Tabor. A Tabor block cleared the way for Sims to romp for 42 yards and a touchdown against Missouri. Another, against Texas, sprung Kenny King for a 55-yard gain that set up Oklahoma's first TD. Guard Terry Crouch and 6'5", 280-pound Tackle Lyndle Byford, both redshirts, have good potential, but their presence does not erase the fact that Oklahoma has inexperienced blocking for a green quarterback.
The running, though, is strong and deep. In addition to Sims, there are David Overstreet and Freddie Nixon, both of whom averaged 6.5 yards a carry or more, and four blue-chip freshman backs, among them Stanley Wilson, a six-foot, 193-pound Los Angeles schoolboy All-America.
The secondary returns intact, and in rebuilding the rest of the defense around Tackle John Goodman, End Bruce Taton and Linebacker George Cumby, Oklahoma has a strong foundation. Cumby was the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year in 1977, and last year he had 114 tackles and five interceptions. Cumby took one of those passes 40 yards for a touchdown. And who is going to push around Paul Parker, a 6'3", 290-pound freshman? He and junior college transfer Keith Gary are the likely starters at tackle. "We had our best recruiting year since 1975," says Switzer, and that was the class of Roberts, Lott, von Schamann, et al.
So if the newcomers and Julius Caesar Watts mature quickly, Oklahoma will be O.K. Maybe A.O.K., because the schedule includes such weak non-conference opponents as Iowa, Tulsa and Rice. The toughies will be against Texas in October, and the last two against Missouri and Nebraska. All three of those teams have losing records against Switzer-coached squads, so you can be sure they will come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
In recent years, Michigan has seemingly had about as much personnel turnover as the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can almost hear the litany: Rick Leach fakes a handoff to Russell Davis and gives to Harlan Huckleby, who goes for four up the middle. With that familiar cast, the Wolverines had the nation's ninth-best ground game and its fourth-highest scoring attack in 1978. They shared the Big Ten title with Michigan State and lost in the Rose Bowl for the third straight time. But Coach Bo Schembechler has finally been forced to issue a casting call, and until his almost totally new offensive unit gets settled in, Michigan will be just another contender—for the Big Ten title, a Rose Bowl berth and a Top 20 ranking.
It is the defense that will keep the Wolverines in the race for those distinctions. Just about everybody who matters is back from the 1978 crew that was the country's second most difficult to score on, having allowed just eight points a game. In fact, during the past decade, a period that coincides exactly with Schembechler's term as coach, Michigan has been the No. 1 team in the nation in total yardage defense and in allowing the fewest points.
Even if Michigan had no offensive players, its defenders might just be able to keep most games close and maybe win a few. Last season the Wolverine defenders yielded a total of only nine points to Illinois, Duke, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue and Ohio State. Returning are Curtis Greer, Mike Trgovak and Dale Keitz, the down linemen in the Wolverines' 3-4. While Greer is known for his 425-pound bench presses, Keitz' fame comes from lighter lifts—Woody Hayes' trash cans during a summer-vacation stint as a garbage collector several years ago. Linebacker Ron Simpkins, Safety Mike Harden and Halfback Mike Jolly were selected to the All-Big Ten team last year. All Simpkins did last season to earn the honor was to make more unassisted tackles (118) than the entire starting line.
The offensive line, all but dismantled by graduation, has been further buffeted by injuries. Michigan had planned to start seniors John Powers, the only starting lineman back from last January's Rose Bowl, and John Arbeznik, a 1978 All-Big Ten guard despite a late-season ankle injury. Bubba Paris, a 6'7", 275-pound sophomore, was to move in at strong tackle. But no. In spring practice, Powers, Arbeznik, Paris and a defensive back went down with knee injuries. All but Arbeznik had to undergo surgery, and it will be a "bonus" for the Wolverines if they play at all, according to Schembechler.
The backfield, even without injuries, is unusually thin. Lawrence Reid is the only experienced fullback, and Schembechler says he never has enough tailbacks. Still, Reid and Tailback Butch Woolfolk gained almost as many yards per carry last season—4.2 and 4.7, respectively—as the departed Huckleby and Davis.
The big problem is replacing Leach, a four-year starter at quarterback. B. J. Dickey gets first call, having completed eight of 19 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns as Leach's backup. "I don't feel as desperate as I did four years ago when we only had Leach," says Schembechler. "Actually, I've got five candidates, and I'd feel comfortable with any of them." He will feel better than that if one of them can consistently get the ball to Ralph Clayton, the wingback who last season caught 25 passes for 546 yards and a Wolverine record-tying eight touchdowns.
Two of those promising quarterbacks are freshmen Rich Hewlett of Plymouth, Mich. and Steve O'Donnell of Madison, N.J. One thing's for sure: Bo didn't recruit them with the idea of converting them into defensive players.
12. N.C. State
Why are all these optimists at North Carolina State saying that this year's squad may end up better than last year's? Don't they know that Ted Brown, Mr. Whole Shebang—the Wolfpack's top rusher and pass receiver for three years straight—is now in a Minnesota Viking uniform? Maybe, but even Coach Bo Rein, who by now certainly has noticed Brown's absence from the backfield, recently said, "This year we have a great senior class. We have won nine games in a season, and we have a chance to do better than that!"
If, indeed, this Wolfpack ends up being better than last year's 9-3 team, it will unquestionably be because of matters that may not be fully appreciated outside of Raleigh—like a defense that contains, not consumes, and a marvelous offensive line. "There are a lot of people on this team who are taking a lot more pride in getting ready for the season than ever before since I've been here," says Center Jim Ritcher, speaking like the sociology major he is.
Rein is more direct. "We have the best offensive line you could want," he says. Indeed, no one can remember having seen a bigger line in the ACC. Tackles Todd Eckerson and Chris Koehne go 6'4", 257 pounds and 6'6", 256, respectively. Guards Chuck Stone and Chris Dieterich are just as hefty. Ritcher is a comparative midget at 6'3", 245, but he bench-presses 425 pounds and has been timed in 4.6 for the 40. "He's the best center ever to line up in college ball," gushes Pat Dye, the coach at East Carolina. One might suspect that Dye is merely campaigning, because he'd love nothing more than to have his school voted into the ACC, but Syracuse Coach Frank Maloney has nothing to gain when he says, "Ritcher is absolutely the best center I've ever seen."
So what difference does it really make if it's junior Dwight Sullivan or senior Rickey Adams or University Chancellor Joab Thomas who succeeds Brown? Somebody in the Wolfpack backfield is going to gain a lot of yardage. Rein also plans to call more often upon Fullback Billy Ray Vickers, who gained 600 yards last year when he wasn't opening holes for Brown.
Quarterback Scott Smith has mastered the veer offense and throws accurately enough, completing 49% of 101 passes in 1978. Still, Smith did not get a single touchdown through the air. A greater threat to put points on the board is Nathan Ritter, who split the uprights with 17 of his 19 field-goal attempts, making him the nation's most accurate placekicker.
Last September the Pack defense was viewed as a liability. Then Tackle Bubba Green, Linebacker Joe Hannah and Safety Mike Nail, all of whom had been injured, recovered and played better than ever. They blended beautifully with Tackle Simon Gupton and Safety Woodrow Wilson, who, you guessed it, is known by teammates as El Presidente. Meanwhile, two newcomers at cornerback, Donnie LeGrande and Ronnie Lee, turned out to be very pleasant surprises for Rein, and—zingo!—the Wolfpack had an asset, not a liability. All of these players are still on hand, a year older and, presumably, wiser.
The Wolfpack schedule includes two tough non-conference opponents—Auburn and Penn State—which means that if Rein is serious about winning 10 games, he almost surely must go unbeaten in the ACC. Because the Wolfpack will play Maryland and North Carolina, its two most rugged challengers in the conference, in Raleigh, an unblemished ACC record is a possibility, especially for a team anxious to be known as something more than Ted Brown's supporting cast.
As a rule, it's Missourians who insist on being shown, but in the case of Warren Powers, it was some folks from the Show-Me State who did some mean convincin'. In December 1977 they persuaded Powers to abandon Washington State and come to Missouri as coach of the Tigers, even though it would cost him a bundle to make the switch. Fifty-five grand, to be exact. That was the amount Washington State charged Powers to buy out the final year of his contract. Powers' investment paid off immediately as Washington State, which had gone 6-5 under him in '77, slumped to a 3-7-1 record, while Missouri had its best season (8-4) and got its first bowl bid (Liberty) in six years.
Powers is rightly anticipating another payoff this fall for two important reasons: the Tiger players are better, and their opponents are not. And with 17 underclassmen in the starting lineup, Powers should keep on getting big dividends through the 1980 season.
Junior Phil Bradley is the Big Eight's best quarterback. He led the conference in total offense last season, with 2,081 yards, and hit 60.2% of his passes, third-best in the nation. Junior James Wilder is the Big Eight's best fullback. Despite being a sub until Missouri's fifth game a year ago, he gained 873 yards and personally took Nebraska apart, rushing for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
Tackle to tackle the '78 line is back, except for Center Pete Allard. All-America Tight End Kellen Winslow now plays for the San Diego Chargers, but with a total of seven starters back from an offensive unit that was sixth in the nation in scoring (31.6 points a game) and 10th in total offense (414.3 yards a game), Missouri again figures to be putting points on the board from everywhere but the parking lot.
To shore up the defense Powers has shifted quick End Kurt Petersen and quicker Nose Guard Bennie Smith to tackle, where things were sluggish, and in spring drills Norman Goodman played so superbly at nose guard that Powers says, "He might be another Rich Glover," the All-America of several seasons back at hated Nebraska. Goodman, a Missouri-bred lad, seems to feel that comparing him to a mere mortal like Glover is something of a comedown. "I'm from Metropolis," he says. "The name is Goodman, like in Superman."
Last year Missouri opened with Notre Dame and Alabama, but this season the Tigers start against San Diego State and Illinois. And that's not the only good news on Mizzou's schedule; the Tigers also face the other Big Eight heavyweights, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and their toughest non-conference opponent, Texas, at home.
A good team and a favorable schedule are all most schools need to assure themselves a good season, but at Missouri there's a tradition of upsets—of which the Tigers have been both perpetrators and victims—to be considered. For instance, last year Missouri shocked Notre Dame and Nebraska on the road, but in between, the Tigers lost games they were heavily favored to win against Oklahoma State and Colorado, the latter coming in front of 71,096 witnesses at home. To challenge Nebraska and Oklahoma, which have dominated the Big Eight for 17 seasons, Missouri must stop losing when it's supposed to win.
"We've got talent, and we're going to be reckoned with," Powers says. "Our chances for a Big Eight title are as good or better than anybody else's."
Which brings to mind the words of Missouri Congressman Willard D. Vandiver (1897-1905), who said, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." Now is the time you can do it, Warren.
Your typical Husky fan is blasè. Perhaps it's the view from the Washington campus—the green Cascades to the east and the towering Olympic Mountains to the west—that makes him that way. After all, compared to such majesty, the spectacle of college football is pretty uninspiring stuff. Husky fever normally consists of ignoring yell leaders and razzing a makeshift alumni band until it launches into Tequila, at which point everyone stands and bellows out the song's title.
At least that's what it used to be like. But then last November, when bowl bids came out and the 7-4 Huskies didn't get one, the tranquillity was transformed into bedlam. Washington was America's No. 1 uninvited team. Pac 10 colleagues UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State and USC all got invites. But the Huskies, who lost by just a field goal to the Bruins, beat Stanford 34-31 and crushed Arizona State 41-7, were a furious wallflower. "I hated sitting at home during the holidays watching all those other Pac 10 teams on TV," says Fullback Toussaint Tyler. "This year I'd like to go 11-0 and to the Rose Bowl." Because of the power of USC, Tyler might not get to go to the postseason game of his choice, but it's going to be hard for other bowls to overlook the Huskies this fall.
For one thing, though seven '78 seniors have departed, the entire offensive and defensive lines and the placekicker are back from a team that outscored opponents 270-155. And the schedule is easier. Washington should be 5-0 before facing Pittsburgh, UCLA, California, USC and Washington State, and though they are all tough, three of them will play the Huskies in Seattle, where Washington keeps its fans feeling mellow by seldom losing.
Once again the quarterbacking is in good hands, with Tom Porras, who rebounded from a jittery performance in the '78 opener against UCLA to finish with passing marks of 84 of 176 for 1,151 yards. Backup Tom Flick was 19 for 29 in relief. Both will still be able to throw to top Receiver Keith Richardson and hand off to Tyler and Joe Steele, who is fresh from gaining a Husky single-season record 1,111 yards. He needs only 103 more to eclipse Hugh McElhenny and become Washington's leading career rusher. Equally steely is Joe's substitute, Willis Ray Mackey, a freshman from Luling, Texas.
On defense, the Huskies figure to be a cut above last season, mainly because of more experience at linebacker and up front. The unit's most notable performer is Tackle Doug Martin, an NFL first-round prospect who led Washington in tackles for losses (16), batted down four passes and recovered a fumble. He will play alongside Antowaine Richardson. "Antowaine has the great RH factor," says Coach Don James. "He runs and he hits."
Add to all this Placekicker Mike Lansford, who has range (he has booted field goals from 49 yards out) and accuracy (33 of 33 PATs) and 27 1978 redshirts rejoining the team, and it is as clear as a high mountain morning that a lot of Husky fans will be abnormally unblasè.
15. Florida State
The beat of an Indian war drum throbs portentously. Forty thousand Seminole fans are on their feet and screaming in Florida State's Campbell Stadium. The visiting team is manfully trying to complete its pre-game workout in the midst of all this cacophony. Suddenly the drum grows even louder, the stadium lights go dim, and a blanketed horse appears under the Seminoles' goalpost. From out of the darkness beyond the end zone comes State's Seminole mascot, bounding toward the horse. He leaps atop the animal, which rears up, and thrusts a flaming spear triumphantly into the night sky. Then, with his mount at a gallop, he circles the visiting team's players, as the crowd roars. Finally, at midfield, he slams the spear deep into the turf and rides off to thunderous cheers. Welcome to Florida State.
After attending the Houston-FSU game in Tallahassee last fall, A.J. Yeoman, wife of Cougar Coach Bill Yeoman, complained that she feared for her safety. This year, five Seminole opponents must brave an evening in Tallahassee, and they should have concern for their well-being, too. Back from last year's 8-3 FSU team are 18 starters, including 10 from an offense that was among the national leaders in total yardage and passing. The drum beats on.
Once again the attack will be led by "Wally Jim Jordham," the two-headed quarterback who completed 206 passes for 2,749 yards and would have ranked third in the nation in yards gained through the air, except for one thing. Jordham is actually two marvelous passers, Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham, who, in the eyes of Coach Bobby Bowden, are perfectly interchangeable and are used that way. Jordan hit 54.3% of his attempts, gained 1,427 yards and passed for 14 TDs. He throws deep better than Wood-ham does, but not by much. Woodham, a 58% passer who threw for 1,322 yards and nine TDs, reads defenses better than Jordan does, but not by much. They and holdover receivers Jackie Flowers, Sam Piatt and Kurt Unglaub and Fullback Mark Lyles were mainly responsible for Florida State's scoring 38 points on four different occasions last season. "Our athletes aren't physical enough not to throw," says Bowden with a wink.
The coach's main concern is the Seminole defense, which last year made a habit of yielding points freely in the first half (137) and then knuckling down, as evidenced by the fact that FSU gave up zero points to seven opponents in the second half. One defender Bowden can count on for a full day's work is Nose Guard Ron Simmons, a weight-lifting junkie who has won the Defensive Player of the Game award all three times State has played on TV. The return of Ivory Joe Hunter, who started at cornerback until he was injured in the second game last year, also figures to help make the FSU defense stiffer than it was in '78.
On Sept. 15, Florida State meets Arizona State in Tampa, Fla. If the Seminoles can win that one and another game at LSU in October without benefit of their riled-up fans, they might win them all.
Maybe Houston should be nicknamed the Confounders instead of the Cougars. The only thing the team has done consistently—even before it joined the Southwest Conference—is fool everyone. Witness:
•In 1968 Houston put the kibosh on Tulsa 100-6 and then lost by 20 points the next week.
•The 1975 team was 2-8, so in 1976—after prognosticators gave the Cougars no chance—they went 9-2 and tied Texas Tech for the SWC title.
•Last year, coming off a dismal 6-5 season that no one had predicted, the Cougars kept everyone off balance by rolling to another SWC championship.
"There's nothing sinister about it," says Head Coach Bill Yeoman. "Sometimes a team rears back and attacks, and sometimes it doesn't."
Whether this season's Cougars rear back depends heavily on six new faces in the backfield. Gone are Quarterback Danny Davis and running backs Emmett King and Randy Love, who gave Houston the first pair in conference history to gain 1,000 yards apiece. Calling signals will be Delrick Brown, who is faster than Davis and has plenty of experience, having stepped in for Davis on the numerous occasions he was banged up. Terald Clark and John New-house, a cousin of Dallas Cowboy Robert Newhouse, are the best of the six running backs Yeoman expects to call on. Clark is stumpy (5'9", 196 pounds) but fleet, which he proved last year by gaining 222 yards in only 44 carries. Newhouse did even better, picking up 289 yards in 34 tries. That averages out to 8.5 yards a crack. And at 6'2", 220 pounds, reserve David Barrett is expected to be Houston's first bowl-'em-over back since, well, Robert Newhouse starred for the Cougars in 1971.
So Yeoman is optimistic, and rightfully so, because he probably could gain 1,000 yards behind Houston's offensive line, which enabled the backs to gain 3,306 yards, score 47 touchdowns and average 30 points a game last season. At 6'3", 268 pounds, Tackle Melvin Jones is testament to the line's bulk, and he best expresses its philosophy. "The idea is to be real Cougars," he says, lifting up his hands and forming them into claws. "Walk softly and take big bites."
With eight starters and 21 of 28 regulars back from a defense that allowed just nine touchdowns rushing, the Cougars know where their weakness lies. Opposing passers stung Houston by completing 51% of their tries last season. Yeoman, however, liked the improvement he saw in spring drills. Besides, the gargantuan front line that includes Leonard Mitchell (6'7", 270) and Hosea Taylor (6'5", 270) is capable of making up for almost all the mistakes the secondary may make.
It is tempting to say that one can rely on Houston to be the best team in the conference—or the worst. One thing indicating that the latter won't be the case is that in both of Houston's conference championship years it rained the day of the Cougars' spring intersquad game. On April 21 of this year, the date of the Red-and-White game, it was pouring.
The whole season depended on Darrin Nelson, right? Well, the Cardinals certainly would have ranked higher with Nelson, the sensational halfback who is the only player in NCAA history to catch 50 passes and run for 1,000 yards in a season, a feat he has pulled off twice. Though Nelson has been redshirted as the result of a hamstring injury suffered while long-jumping in March, Stanford isn't out of the Pac 10 race by a long shot, because only six regulars are missing from the 1978 squad that went 8-4 despite a murderous schedule.
All that talent should make things easier for new Coach Rod Dowhower, who moved up to the head job in January when his former boss, Bill Walsh, left to take over the San Francisco 49ers. There is also good depth in the Cardinal ranks, a fact Dowhower exploited this spring when he had sophomore LaMott Atkins working in Nelson's running-back slot. If Atkins, who is studying to be a concert violinist, hits a clinker, Mike Dotterer or Vincent White, both freshmen, will step in. White, nicknamed VW, is a compact 5'8" and 170 pounds, which just happens to be about the same height and weight as Nelson. Another thing for which Dowhower can be grateful is the early-season schedule that features four straight gimme games (Tulane, San Jose State, Army and Boston College) that will allow his backfield to gain seasoning before meeting a conference opponent. That includes Quarterback Turk Schonert, a shaggy-haired, mustachioed fifth-year senior who thus far has thrown only nine passes in college games. Schonert, a former redshirt, hopes to fill Steve Dils' shoes the way Dils, who also redshirted, filled Guy Benjamin's. All Dils did when he got his chance was become the nation's No. 1 passer. It should help Schonert that Ken Margerum, who was the leading Pac 10 receiver with 53 catches for 942 yards in 1978, is back. Under Walsh, Stanford teams were noted for their offensive ability, but Dowhower is counting on people like Tackle Chuck Evans (who had seven sacks last year) and Linebacker Milt McColl to earn the veteran defense a reputation as well.
To Stanford students, who are not widely known for docility, the biggest hero of 1979 might turn out to be new Athletic Director Andy Geiger, fresh from the Ivy League. Last fall fans were prohibited from bringing bottles and cans into Stanford Stadium. Geiger has rescinded the prohibition. His timing is perfect. There should be much to be toasted.
18. Ohio State
For the first time in 29 seasons, somebody other than Wayne Woodrow (Woody) Hayes is the Buckeye coach. In place of the man who generated equal measures of controversy and success is Earle Bruce, 48, a former Hayes assistant, who most recently spent six seasons as the head man at Iowa State. There he turned a team that had had eight losing seasons in 10 years into a back-to-back-to-back eight-game winner. It was the first time since the mid-1920s that the Cyclones had three consecutive .500-plus seasons.
Clearly Bruce is a winner, but can he match the 238-72-10 pace set by Hayes? Judging by an exhilarating spring practice, and taking into account Ohio State's soft schedule, Bruce might win nine, maybe even 10 games, which would certainly be a step in the right direction. It won't hurt a bit that the quarterback he inherits, sophomore Art Schlichter, is already the Buckeye single-season total-offensive record holder. Or that Schlichter is thrilled that Bruce, unlike Woody, has a playbook that features page after page of pass plays.
After completing 16 passes for 194 yards and no interceptions in the spring game, Schlichter was beaming. "This is a new season, and it's going to be different," he said. "I want to win every game and overpower people, not just go out there with the goal of not losing."
Bruce inherits more than a few problems, too. Gone is Tom Cousineau—the linebacker who was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft—and four other starters from a defense that was none too spectacular in the first place. Last season the Buckeyes gave up an un-Hayesian 313 yards and 18 points a game. Also among the missing are six-sevenths of the offensive line, Running Back Ron Springs and Split End Rod Gerald. Moreover, insiders say that Bruce has yet to cool off a smoldering clique of players who are still riled over Schlichter's ascension as a freshman to the No. 1 quarterback spot, a position Gerald had held for two years. The feeling is that Schlichter may still have to prove himself to his teammates, if not to Bruce and the NFL scouts.
"Backs are no problem," says Bruce, referring in part to recruits Kelvin Lindsey of Sandusky and Tim Spencer of St. Clairsville, either of whom might move right in at tailback. Two other candidates for the job, Calvin Murray and Ricky Johnson, combined for 731 yards last season. For sure, fullback is no problem, because last year's leading rusher, Paul Campbell (591 yards) is back. At flanker, Doug Donley has suddenly become a flashy receiver, hauling in 11 passes for 154 yards in the spring game. That's not bad, considering that in two seasons as just another dogface in Hayes' infantry he had caught only 26 passes. The weakest spots in the line are at tackle, where only Tim Brown, a 6'6" brother of former Buckeye All-America Aaron, has been up to Bruce's standards.
The secondary has experience and speed, but the first of these qualities is missing elsewhere. However, the Buckeyes have 10 games in which to gain some of it. In Game 11 they meet Michigan. Before that traditional showdown, Ohio State faces six Big Ten opponents—Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa—whom it has beaten in 53 of 54 games in the last decade and out-scored by a 1,980-485 margin. The nonconference opponents, Syracuse, Washington State and UCLA, aren't tough, either.
"We don't have the talent I first thought we had when I got the job," Bruce says. "But it will come." Considering the schedule, it won't have to come too quickly for Bruce to make a Hayesian mark at Ohio State.
19. Arizona State
In his 22 years as Sun Devil coach, Frank Kush has won 173 of 226 games. That puts him second in wins among active coaches, to Bear Bryant. Kush has had only one losing season, and even though Arizona State is now a member of the cutthroat Pac 10, Kush's career record doesn't figure to suffer much this season.
Twelve starters return from last season's statistically awesome 9-3 team. The Sun Devils rang up 415.1 yards a game, and on third downs or non-kicking fourth downs, they got first downs 42.5% of the time. Their opponents succeeded on only 29.6% of such occasions. "We should be able to score," says Kush, who is a mean man with a metaphor, "because we have some home-run hitters."
One is Quarterback Mark Malone, a 4.6 sprinter in the 40, who has fullback bulk (220 pounds) and quarterback height (6'4"). Last season Malone's runs and passes provided 44% of the Sun Devils' offense, which was ninth best in the country. His one weakness is that everything he throws—including 50-yard passes—is a bullet, which sometimes makes it tough for receivers to catch up to the ball. "Mark is just a colt," says Kush. "But he's going to be a thoroughbred." Among Kush's other heavy-hitters/stallions are receivers Ron Washington and John Mistier.
The Sun Devils are also well stocked with speedy runners, among them old reliables Newton Williams, Gerald Riggs and Arthur (Turtle) Lane, and potential stars in freshman Willie Gittens and sophomores Robert Weathers and Alvin Moore. The problem is literally right in front of their backs' faces—the offensive line. Arizona State must start a new center, a new tight end and two new tackles. "I don't care how many thoroughbreds you have," Kush cautions while sticking to his equine motif. "You can't go without the horses up front."
Kush's defensive concerns are the opposite of those on offense. "We're strong in the line, but the strength tapers off as we progress back," he says. "We could get into some track meets in which we could score big and still lose." Last year both Washington and Washington State tore apart the Sun Devil secondary, the Huskies winning by 34 points and the Cougars by 25. The line is solid, even though All-America End Al Harris is gone. Either Joe Peters or Tom Allen will fill the gap, and the other end is filled by Bob Kohrs, who despite his unimpressive size (6'3", 225 pounds) for his position, matched Harris in Kush's grading system last fall. Kohrs worked as a bouncer in local bars during the summer. One of the watering holes held boxing matches, and one night Kohrs' pals succeeded in pressuring him into taking on a 280-pound amateur who had been daring customers to step into the ring. Kohrs pulled off his shirt, climbed under the ropes and coldcocked the loudmouth. Time of K.O.: eight seconds of Round 1.
Another tough guy is Linebacker Ben Apuna. Following last year's 20-7 upset of USC, Trojan Running Back Charles White called the Sun Devil defenders "just a dirty bunch of guys. One guy [Apuna] never stopped talking and kept shouting things like 'We're going to kick your butts.' " Washington got the word, and two weeks later the Husky linemen buried Apuna. Whenever they blocked in his direction, they yelled, "Apuna! Apuna!" Later Apuna just smiled. "The only people I don't want yelling at me are Kush and Bob Owens [a defensive coach]," he said.
Much as Kush would like his thoroughbreds to outgallop the field in the race for the Pac 10 title, it seems there might be a track meet or two at which his horses will be overmatched and his home-run hitters will strike out.
Lou Holtz, who covers up the fact that he is a fine coach with a torrent of self-deprecating one-liners, surveyed the few survivors from his 11-1 and 9-2-1 teams of 1977 and '78 and launched into his act. "We ought to redshirt everybody," he said, "and give the coach a sabbatical. This year will be like changing jobs without moving your family. I know we will sell a lot of programs, though, because we will be unknown soldiers. I don't mind starting a season with unknowns. I just don't like finishing a season with a bunch of them."
Indeed, the Arkansas defense will be as inexperienced as any the Razorbacks have fielded in years. And worse, the quarterback candidates—1978 reserve Kevin Scanlon, who broke Joe Namath's passing records at Beaver Falls, Pa., and sophomore Tom Jones, Bert's brother—are both more talented at passing than rushing, and in the SWC a running quarterback is considered essential. "We'll just throw more," says Holtz. "Depending on how well the defense comes along, we will throw more anyway."
But not all is bleak. The offensive line returns intact and has depth. Tackle Greg Kolenda is a good bet to earn All-America honors, and lining up beside him will be Guard George Stewart, who could do the same. Though the pros took three top running backs from Holtz' two previous seasons at Arkansas, waiting in the wings are Thomas Brown and Roland Sales. Somehow Holtz was able to spirit Brown out of Montgomery, Ala. (No doubt he kept Bear Bryant diverted with one of his rapid-fire routines.) Sales was the sub who rushed for an Orange Bowl record of 205 yards two seasons ago when two starting running backs were suspended. Then last year Sales came off the bench to score Arkansas' only touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl. Mexican-born placekicker Ismael Ordonez led the SWC in scoring last fall, finishing ahead of the more heralded Russell Erxleben of Texas and Tony Franklin of Texas A&M.
Creampuff openers—Colorado State, Oklahoma State and Tulsa—give Arkansas a 3-0 record before it opens its conference schedule. Then the Hogs get Texas, Houston, SMU and Baylor at home. The Longhorns will be coming to Little Rock for the first time since 1971, which also happens to be the last time the Razorbacks defeated Texas.
The most encouraging development during last spring's drills was the emergence of Quarterback Jones, who enrolled at Arkansas in August 1978 only after LSU, for one, declined to offer him a grant-in-aid because—at 6'2", 162 pounds—he seemed too light for big-time football. As a freshman redshirt Jones served his time in the weight room and gained 24 pounds. It is said he has the best passing touch seen at Arkansas since Joe Ferguson left in 1972. By the midway point of spring practice, Holtz had become so enamoured of Jones that he told his staff not to discuss the lad with anybody. Then Holtz took off to address a Razorback Club meeting and blew it all with one of his one-liners. "Right now," he told the boosters, "Tom Jones is Bert's brother. By next year, Bert may be Tom's brother."
At the close of spring drills, Holtz was thumbing through a team brochure from 1977, and he came across a page on the defense. "There's nothing in here that indicates that Dan Hampton and Jimmy Walker would become All-Americas," he said. "Now, Danny Phillips is as quick as Walker, and Jim Elliott is as strong as Hampton. It's just that we're so young." Then Holtz served warning on the SWC by stealing a line from Darrell Royal: "Remember, if a dog's gonna bite, he'll do it as a pup."