Arizona fans and players are fuming, and it's not over the $1 million the Wildcats stand to lose in TV revenues as punishment for 31 infractions from 1971 through '79. Sure, the money would be nice, but it's nothing compared to dreams. And this season figured to be one of fulfillment because the veteran Wildcats had an excellent chance of winning their first Pac-10 title and making their first appearance in the Rose Bowl. But because of those violations Arizona will be ineligible for the conference championship and Pasadena this season and next. Make no mistake, though: After overcoming initial feelings of despair, this team has assumed a "We're-going-to-show-'em" attitude.
"We had already discussed coming together before the probation happened [in May]," says Inside Linebacker Ricky Hunley, Arizona's first consensus All-America. "We knew what we had." What they have are eight returning first-stringers on defense, perhaps the fastest offense in the West and a far from demanding schedule. Last year the 6-4-1 Wildcats beat Notre Dame 16-13 in South Bend when the Irish were undefeated, tied UCLA 24-24, outshot Stanford and John Elway 41-27 and lost to USC 48-41 when the Trojans picked up a fumble and returned it for the game's final touchdown. Arizona finished the season by knocking Arizona State out of the Rose Bowl 28-18. This year Utah and California replace Notre Dame and USC on the Wildcats' schedule.
The key performer on offense will be 170-pound junior all-purpose Back Vance Johnson, who was home-grown in Tucson. Johnson was the NCAA outdoor long-jump champion in 1982 with a leap of 26'11¼". He also has 4.35 speed and dazzling moves he's always looking to show off. "We've got to get the ball into Vance's hands as much as possible," says Coach Larry Smith. He plans to do that by using Johnson as a slotback—which brings to mind the days of Johnny Rodgers at Nebraska—and by adding punt returns to Johnson's myriad duties. In 1982 Johnson rushed for 443 yards on 111 carries, caught 25 passes for 186 yards, averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return and scored seven touchdowns.
Johnson is no shrinking violet. He told teammates he would return last season's opening kickoff for a touchdown—and then did it, going 93 yards against Oregon State. "If he gets past the line, he's gone," says Hunley. In more ways than one. In a span of 18 minutes last spring, Johnson grabbed a 50-yard scoring pass in a scrimmage, changed his togs and won the long jump at the Willie Williams Invitational, an intercollegiate meet on the Arizona campus involving six schools. Also during the spring, Theo Bell, the former Wildcat star who's now with the Tampa Bay Bucs, came back to work with Johnson on punt-return technique.
August 31, 1983
The quarterback will again be Tom Tunnicliffe, who has an excellent arm. Smith's offense is wide open, as the scores of the Stanford and USC games attest, and Tunnicliffe was Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week three times last season, once after ripping apart the University of the Pacific secondary for 21 completions, 427 yards and six touchdowns. Tunnicliffe finished 1982 with 176 completions on 328 attempts (54%), for 2,520 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had scoring throws of 92, 72, 69, 65, 63, 57 and 50 yards. Four of those heaves were hauled in by Split End Brad Anderson, a Brigham Young transfer. Arkansas transfer Jay Dobyns will line up at flanker.
Defensively, the Wildcats are anchored by Hunley, who has an astounding 224 solo tackles and 166 assists going into his senior season. Hunley grew up as one of 10 children in Petersburg, Va. His brother Lamonte, who's a junior, will start at the other inside linebacking position. The secondary features senior Randy Robbins, who led the conference in interceptions last season with six, and junior Ray Moret, who forced a team-high three fumbles. Both are cornerbacks. However, it's Safety Gordon (The Crunch) Bunch who draws raves from Ricky Hunley. "He hit Vance so hard in practice last year that Vance had a bruise from the top of his head to his waist," he says. "Vance missed the UCLA game because of it."
If the probation really doesn't damage morale and the Wildcats can get the ball to Vance, protect Tunnicliffe and point The Crunch in the right direction, then whoever does play in the Rose Bowl—excepting, of course, USC—will be more than a little worse for wear.
[Yellow Circle] [Yellow Square] RETURNING STARTER
[Dark Red Circle] [Dark Red Square] RETURNING ALL-AMERICA
[See caption above.]