Fullbacks are sprouting in the Longhorn backfield faster than massage parlors in Austin, or, as Ervin (Blue) Davis says, "We've got more fullbacks than a skunk's got funk." Davis is one of Texas' three alternating fullbacks and its resident funkmeister. Metaphors and mimicry are his métier. He's also Texas' designated scorer. Davis, who's modeled along the lines of Bevo XII, the Longhorns' 800-plus-pound mascot, bulled for eight TDs last season, and he carried the ball only 56 times.
Davis does a hilarious three-way send-up of Howard Cosell interviewing Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks and impersonations of all the members of the Texas coaching staff. "I don't think he does his best work when he does me," says Coach Fred Akers. But junior Quarterback Todd Dodge disagrees. "Blue has Coach down to a T," he says.
Anyone wanting to impersonate the Long-horn offense, however, would have to get it down to an I. Last year, after early losses to Oklahoma and SMU, Texas rode herd on its last six regular-season opponents. But first-string Quarterback Robert Brewer broke his thumb during a passing drill just before Texas met North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. His replacement. Dodge, who had thrown only 20 times all year, completed just six of 22 attempts as the Longhorns were run through the abattoir 26-10 and wound up with a 9-3 record. "We couldn't bust a grape in that game," says Davis.
Texas has gone bowling all six years under Akers, but its inability to win the Southwest Conference title since his first season has caused some fans to brand him Not Ready Freddie. This year Freddie will be ready, at least on defense. The Longhorns' unit will be virtually the same one that forced 41 fumbles in 1982 and allowed only 136.6 yards per game on the ground, about half the Texas average output. But graduation has trimmed a lot of prime beef on the attack. Gone to graze in the greener pastures of the NFL are Brewer, who set a passel of school passing records; Wide Receiver Herkie Walls, who broke nearly every Texas reception mark; Placekicker Raul Allegre; and Darryl Clark, the first Longhorn to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season since Earl Campbell.
Fortunately, the linchpin of the offensive line, Guard Doug Dawson, is back for his fourth year as a starter. "He's stronger than a garlic milkshake," says Davis. If Davis resembles Bevo XII, then Dawson is more like the livestock trailer that hauls the critter around. "I'll ask him which way I should cut," says Davis, "and he'll just smile and say, 'Follow the truck.' "
The Dodge set to lead the Longhorn convoy is built for long drives. As a senior at Jefferson High in Port Arthur, Texas, Dodge became the first schoolboy ever to pass for 3,000 yards in a season. His father, a Presbyterian minister, moved the family across the state to Longview before Todd's junior year. But Todd stayed behind to play football. The Rev. Dodge drove 250 miles each Saturday to watch his son perform and then back to Longview in time to lead his congregation in prayer. If Dodge gets off to a sputtering start, the job will fall to either junior Rob Moerschell, who also returns punts; walk-on Danny Akers, the coach's son; Rick McIver, the starting quarterback two years ago before a knee injury shelved him; or hotly recruited freshman Bret Stafford.
Vying for the wide receiver spot with junior Brent (Allstate) Duhon—Davis: "You're in good hands with Brent"—will be freshmen James Lott, who last spring high-jumped 7'4¾", a national high school record, and sprinter Tony Tillman, who covers 40 yards in 4.3 seconds. At tailback the new face is 6'4", 230-pound Edwin Simmons, who last year was the Texas Class AA schoolboy 200-meter champion (21.5), finished second at the state meet in the long jump (23'3") and was rated the top back in the country by one recruiting service. A quarterback until midway through his junior year, Simmons scored 38 TDs and ran for 200 yards or more nine times as a senior. Says Davis, "He's so fast he could put handcuffs on a lightning bolt."
Simmons' main competition for the tailback job is ultracool senior Michael (Get Down Hound) Brown, who in his dorm room keeps a feathered friend named Bootsie, which Davis claims is "so ugly it could make a train take a dirt road." Akers, on the other hand, has a pet play—M*A*S*H—that operates with three fullbacks. "I just get 'em together and head 'em north," he says. But the Longhorns must first stray east to open against tough Auburn. Like Davis, they hope to leave a lasting impression.
[Yellow Circle] [Yellow Square] RETURNING STARTER
[Dark Red Circle] [Dark Red Square] RETURNING ALL-AMERICA
[See caption above.]