Frank Reich, a fifth-year senior working on his MBA, replaces Boomer Esiason at quarterback for Maryland. Reich performed well when Boomer was hurt last year [36 for 60,433 yards] and has improved, but the defense has so many holes that coach Bobby Ross moved running back Donald Brown to cornerback. North Carolina is rebuilding, too. The best returners are tailback Ethan Horton (1,107 yards in '83) and linebacker Micah Moon, who made 21 tackles in the Heels' loss to Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Unlike last year's, the schedule is respectable, with Boston College and Kansas replacing Miami of Ohio and William and Mary.
Virginia has a solid defense—nine '83 starters led by all-ACC safety Lester Lyles—but no quarterback. After going 2-9 in his first season, coach George Welsh improved to 6-5 last year. He isn't the type to regress.
On May 10, Georgia Tech coach Bill Curry told his booster club that Tech's opponents are "vicious, they're dishonest, and they...sacrifice young minds with drugs [he later specified steroids] or whatever it takes to win." Curry also said, "We will win it [the ACC] this year." For that to happen, Robert Lavette, who ran for 803 yards in '83 after gaining 1,208 in '82, will have to have a remarkable season.
North Carolina State has an excellent runner, Joe McIntosh (3,051 yards in three seasons), and passer, Tim Esposito (2,096 yards in '83). The offensive line averages 264 pounds, with the best of the bunch 6'5", 285-pound tackle Joe Milinichik. Wake Forest lost quarterback Gary Schofield, but little else. Last year the Demon Deacons allowed 411 yards a game, which put them a notch above Duke, which yielded 436. The problem, decided Blue Devil coach Steve Sloan, was a paucity of behemoths. So Sloan scrapped Duke's 5-3 defense and switched to a 4-4-3 with two down linemen and the two ends playing up like linebackers.
Missouri should be strong at quarterback with Marlon Adler, No. 2 in conference passing efficiency a year ago, feeling heat from Warren Seitz, who was unstoppable in spring practice after learning how to read defenses. Although Missouri beat Illinois, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at home in '83, this season it has to face all three, along with Nebraska, on the road. The Tigers have a slew of tailbacks, perhaps the best interior line in the Big Eight and a solid defense, but they have a history of not fulfilling their promise.
Split end Loy Alexander, quarterback Steve Vogel and wingback Ron Brown give Colorado a formidable passing attack. Unfortunately, the defense that ranked 100th in the nation in '83 returns almost intact.
Before junior Stan Weber got his first start at quarterback in the eighth game of '83, Kansas State was scoring only 13.1 points per game. With Weber directing the offense for the balance of the season, the Wildcats averaged 23.5 points. But the pass defense isn't so hot. State gave up 186.7 yards per game in the air last year.
Iowa State coach Jim Criner didn't know what he was getting into when he moved from Boise State last season. Opposing linemen ran down his backs from behind, and his defense yielded 35 points a game. One bright asset, however, is flanker Tracy Henderson, who caught 81 passes. Still, it'll be another painful year for the Cyclones.
Kansas won four games in '83 only because it had the conference's second most prolific offense, behind Nebraska's. This year's attack will be led by Mike Norseth, who threw for 3,010 yards at Utah's Snow J.C. last season, and flanker Skip Peete, a transfer from Arizona. The Jayhawks are on NCAA probation for recruiting violations, and the defense—despite the efforts of linebacker Willie Pless, who made 190 tackles in '83—will again be among the worst anywhere.
Nineteen eighty-four has not been kind to Illinois. First came the 45-9 Rose Bowl loss to UCLA. Then, in June, all-conference safety Craig Swoope was arrested for trafficking in cocaine (the trial was scheduled for Aug. 20) and cornerback Keith Taylor suffered back and neck injuries in an auto accident that will put him out for the season. Finally, on July 27, the NCAA put Illinois on two-year probation for recruiting violations. In the plus column, the Illini still have Jack Trudeau, who passed for 2,446 yards in '83; All-Big Ten offensive linemen Chris Babyar and Jim Juriga; Thomas Rooks, who averaged 5.4 yards a carry as a fullback; and coach Mike White's son, Chris, a walk-on kicker who led the team in scoring [78 points] last year.
Purdue had some offseason high jinks, too. Five players allegedly took part in campus thefts, and coach Leon Burtnett gave them the boot. Burtnett was looking to the future anyway. He will be breaking in 20 freshmen he redshirted last season. Michigan State began '83 with victories over Colorado and Notre Dame and then lost half the team to injuries against Illinois. Coach George Perles could get seven wins in his second year in East Lansing. One key is All-Big Ten safety Phil Parker.
On offense, ever rebuilding Wisconsin has two 300-pound tackles, Jeff Dellenbach and Kevin Belcher, and split end AI Toon, who averaged 20.7 yards per catch in '83. The defense will get a boost from tackle Darryl Sims, who made All-Big Ten in '82 but sat out last season because of lousy grades. Indiana has its third coach in three years. "I don't go on gimmicks," says Bill Mallory, who steered Northern Illinois to the MAC title in '82. "I go on a lot of hard work." Mallory's first mission will be to cut down last year's conference-high 279.3 rushing yards allowed per game.
Northwestern's offense can ignite behind Sandy Schwab, who has passed for 4,573 yards over the last two years while running for his life. Last year Minnesota suffered its worst season ever. Nebraska beat the Gophers 84-13. In all, six opponents scored at least 50 points. "When your football team gives up more points than your basketball team, you're in trouble," says new coach Lou Holtz.
Central Michigan will win the MAC behind tailback Curtis Adams, the No. 4 rusher in the nation last year with 1,431 yards. The other contender is Bowling Green, led by Brian McClure, whose 3,264 passing yards in '83 are a I-A record for a sophomore, and Mark Dowdell, whose 70 catches are the most ever by a tight end.
Defending champion Northern Illinois is rebuilding in its first season under coach Lee Corso, while Toledo has an experienced squad that features tailback Steve Morgan. Ball State has an excellent tight end in 6'4", 250-pound Mike Leuck, who had 67 receptions last season. However, the Cardinals have to cut down on the conference-high 302 points they allowed in '83.
Western Michigan lost three games by a total of 11 points in '83, but its margins of defeat will probably be greater this season. Without linebacker John Offerdahl, the Broncos would have no D. Ohio coach Brian Burke has an inoffensive offense but an experienced defense, which was No. 1 nationally against the pass in '83. The heart of the unit is linebackers Brian Mays and Mike Mangen, who combined for 275 tackles last year.
In its spring game, the Miami of Ohio varsity lost 18-14 to a ragtag team of alumni. Coach Tim Rose was livid, comparing his squad's performance to a "major league baseball team losing 30-0 to a minor league team." Rose will become the first Miami coach since 1942 to suffer two losing seasons in a row. Kent State snapped its 21-game losing streak by beating Eastern Michigan in the ninth game of last year. The toe of Tony DeLeone, who handles the punting as well as the placekicking, could give the Golden Flashes two victories in '84.
"We've had better teams at Tulsa than 90% of the nation realizes," says coach John Cooper. "I think the last two or three years we've had a Top 20 team." Well, maybe. The only losses in '83 were to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but then again Tulsa didn't play the conference's two best Division I-AA teams, Southern Illinois, which won the national title, and Indiana State. Steve Gage was a pleasant surprise, passing for 876 yards and running for 642 last fall as a freshman. So was classmate Tim Gordon, who was the No. 2 punt returner in the nation. A 1,000-yard rusher, Michael Gunter, is gone, but the Golden Hurricane has a defense averaging 264 pounds across the front. "Every one of them bench-presses more than 400 pounds," says Cooper, "and they can all move."
In 1983 freshman Paul Politi of Illinois State hit 17 of 19 field-goal attempts and booted 60% of his kickoffs into the end zone. The Redbirds also have an experienced backfield—tailbacks Kevin Jones and Virgil Winters combined for 1,672 yards a year ago—and a two-time I-AA All-America in free safety Mike Prior.
Wichita State, still on NCAA probation for recruiting violations, has a new coach, Ron Chismar, formerly an assistant at Arizona State. The Shockers will depend heavily on Eric Denson, who ran for 1,017 yards last year, but Chismar says his lack of offensive linemen is "spooky." During spring drills he dressed only two guards and three tackles.
After leading I-AA in total offense in '82, Drake finished next to last in the conference in '83. Similarly, West Texas State led I-AA in passing in 1981 and '82. but then crashed to earth in '83. The Buffalos suffered 28 interceptions and 44 sacks, and quarterback Tom Cortez completed only 34% of his passes. West Texas State has a pair of identical twins, David and Don Wood. David is the conference's best punter (40.2-yard average in '83), and Don stole six passes as a safety.
Ted Tollner's first season as coach at USC was a nightmare. His players were young, they dropped like flies, and the Trojans had their worst record since 1960. Junior Fred Crutcher is slated to play tailback, a weak point since Marcus Allen's departure, but Ryan Knight, a freshman, will start by the third game. Senior quarterback Sean Salisbury hasn't been the star many thought he'd be, but he's not bad. Nor is the defense, led by linebackers Jack Del Rio and Duane Bickett.
Washington State ended its season with five straight wins. No one in the conference had more yards than running back Kerry Porter's 1,000. The Cougars are a dark-horse contender. Arizona's most potent individual is Max Zendejas. He hit 20 of 25 field-goal attempts in '83, never missing inside the 40. The defense, though depleted, still has linebacker Lamonte Hunley and noseguard Joe Drake, who weighed in at 324 during spring practice but, says the press guide, is "expected to play in the 280-290 range." Let's call it the Tucson Diet.
The key player at Cal is long-ball artist Gale Gilbert, and his favorite target is Rance McDougald, who caught 46 passes in '83. The defense is built around linebacker John Haina, who comes from Honolulu, wears No. 50 and answers to Hawaii Five-O. Be there.
Gifted sophomore John Paye is Stanford's thrower; Emile Harry (18.8 yards per catch last fall) is the top receiver; and Jack Elway, late of San Jose State, is the coach. Says alumnus John Elway, "My father always turns a program upward." Maybe, but don't look for Stanford to do better than break even.
Oregon and Oregon State ended 1983 with a memorable 0-0 tie. The Ducks lost their best defender, linebacker Jerry Mikels, to academics, but they're better off than the Beavers. State's top three quarterbacks in the spring game were: one for three; four for 10 (sacked twice); one for four, with one interception. And that's against the conference's worst pass defense.
Two years ago the Nevada, Las Vegas Board of Regents was on the verge of dropping the school's debtridden football program, but a last-ditch appeal led by athletic director Brad Rothermel changed the board's mind. This year the Rebels should win the PCAA on the arm of Randall (brother of Sam Bam) Cunningham, the No. 6 passer and No. 8 punter in the nation in 1983. Damon (brother of Marcus) Allen passed for four TDs and ran for five in leading Fullerton to the 1983 conference crown. Allen, who missed part of spring practice because he was pitching for the Titans' NCAA championship baseball team—the Tigers drafted him in the seventh round—is one of 16 returning starters.
Last year Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney worried about starting his son, Kevin, a freshman, at quarterback. Kevin came through with 2,359 yards and 16 TDs. His receivers are Dave Williams, who averaged 20 yards on 21 catches, and Larry Willis, who led the PCAA with 63 grabs.
At San Jose State, former defensive coordinator Claude Gilbert is the new coach, replacing Jack Elway, who has moved to Stanford. The Spartans will continue to put the ball in the air, but their leading stars are the 21-sack combination of end Terry McDonald and noseman Armahn Williams.
Last year's loss is this year's gain for Pacific. In '83 tight end Tony Camp and quarterback Paul Berner went down early with injuries. Both are back with an extra year of eligibility. New Mexico State coach Fred Zechman is planning for the future. He started 12 freshmen last season and has signed the state's top schoolboy quarterback, Jim Miller.
Mike Sheppard, offensive coordinator at Kansas last year, takes over at Long Beach State, where in 1982 he coached quarterback Todd Dillon to the national total offense title. Dillon's gone, and Sheppard must start from scratch. Utah State, next to last in the PCAA in total offense and total defense in '83, has two outstanding defenders—linebacker Hal Garner and tackle Mike Hamby—but little else.
Over the past four years Georgia has gone 43-4-1, but the Bulldogs are headed for tougher times. All-Americas Terry Hoage and Freddie Gilbert are gone. The leading rusher, Keith Montgomery, flunked out. And Alabama is back on the schedule. Tennessee seemed primed for a splendid '84. But in spring practice fullback Sam Henderson badly injured his left knee, and in June quarterback Alan Cockrell signed as an outfielder with the San Francisco Giants. Still, the Vols have speed in all-SEC halfback Johnnie Jones (1,116 yards in nine games last year) and a solid defense. Seven wins are possible.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard, the inventor of the wishbone, is all but scrapping his brainchild and installing the I. That's partly because he lost his mainstay, quarterback John Bond. The Bulldogs also lost all their linebackers and defensive backs. A rebuilding year for sure.
Hand it to Jerry Claiborne at Kentucky and Billy (Dog) Brewer at Ole Miss. From 0-10-1 in 1982, the Wildcats went 6-5-1, but they'll have a hard time matching that performance, especially without quarterback Randy Jenkins. Ole Miss, 4-7 in '82, was 1-5 before coming on with five straight wins under Brewer. The Rebels need a D, but quarterback Kent Austin should give them an O.
Q: What do LSU and Vanderbilt have in common? A: Neither won an SEC game in '83.
LSU had no excuse, really. Its personnel may be the best in the conference. Bill Arnsparger, the Miami Dolphin defensive coach for 10 of the last 13 years, and the New York Giants' head coach for the other three, now is in charge of getting all the Tigers facing the same way, which is all he really needs to do to start winning.
Vanderbilt always moves the ball: In '83 Kurt Page finished second in the nation in total offense, and Keith Edwards, a fullback, was first in receiving with 97 catches. However, the Commodores are always error-prone: 41 turnovers in '83, 11 more than any other team in the conference.
Texas A&M, Houston and Baylor all have high hopes for sophomore quarterbacks. Kevin Murray of A&M started the final seven games of '83—the Aggies went 4-2-1—and ended up No. 1 in the conference in total offense. The mainstay of A&M's leaky defense is Ray Childress, a 6'6" 266-pound tackle/end who had 15 sacks. Houston quarterback Gerald Landry became a starter in the eighth game last fall, and in four games he produced 1,203 yards of total offense. The Cougars lost 32 fumbles last season. Fortunately, the backs who did the bobbling are gone. Baylor has two sophomore signal-callers, Cody Carlson and Tom Muecke, and they ended up as the SWC's No. 1 and 2 passers, respectively. The Bears lost a 1,000-yard rusher (Alfred Anderson) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Gerald McNeil), and that hurts. The defense is unchanged, but that's no blessing: Only Rice gave up more yards than the Bears in the SWC in'83.
Fifty-five of Texas Tech's 80 players have spent a year beefing up as redshirts, but heavier doesn't always make it better. The Red Raiders won't be any more formidable than they were last season, when the offense was next-to-last in the conference and the defense third from the bottom. TCU, however, is improving. Four of its losses in '83 were by a touchdown or less. The Horned Frogs' best player is senior split end James Maness, a two-time track All-America as a relay man who averaged 18.6 yards on 37 receptions last year.
Under Lou Holtz, Arkansas quarterback Brad Taylor ran a veer offense in 1981 and '82 and an I in '83. Now, with Holtz at Minnesota, Taylor must learn the flexbone, which Ken Hatfield has brought with him from Air Force. Rice lured coach Watson Brown from Cincinnati with a reported $1.2 million spread over six years. For the moment he's a passing coach without a passing quarterback. The only real hope is Sean Sterle, a transfer from Moorpark (Calif.) J.C.
At last, BYU is in a rebuilding year. Quarterback Steve Young and tight end Gordon Hudson have moved on, along with the rest of the backfield and three all-WAC defenders. New Mexico runs an aggressive, gambling defense. Blitzing 78% of the time in '83, the Lobos led the WAC in total defense, thanks largely to free safety Ray Hornfeck and linebacker Johnny Jackson. Tackle Tim Lopez, the team's best pro prospect, was lost for the year as the result of a bicycle accident this spring, but quarterback Buddy Funck, who ran for 633 yards and passed for 1,521 last fall, will still get solid protection.
Hawaii depends on Raphel Cherry, the conference's '83 leader in passing and total offense, and wideout Walter Murray, who caught seven of Cherry's 18 TD passes. Another weapon is Mike Akiu, who has blocked three punts, four field-goal attempts and an extra point in two years. Wyoming, which won its final three games of '83, was one of the youngest teams in the nation. With 30 players coming off a redshirt year, watch out.
Utah was only nine points from going 8-3 last season, and with quarterback Mark Stevens back the Utes should win eight in '84. But Air Force is beginning a new era. Coach Ken Hatfield went to Arkansas, and most of the offense has taken to the wild blue yonder. The new coach is Fisher De-Berry, who had been the offensive coordinator at Appalachian State. His top players are Mike Brown, who averaged 8.5 yards per carry in '83, and defensive tackle Chris Funk.
Colorado State has most of its '83 first-teamers back, including tight end Keli McGregor, who grabbed 69 passes last year, and fullback Steve Bartalo, who gained 1,113 yards. San Diego State is in the middle of changing its program from one that's made up of 75% J.C. transfers to one composed primarily of players recruited out of high school. This year's squad, mostly redshirt freshmen and sophomores, will grow up fast. Three of the Aztecs' first four games are against Air Force, UCLA and Oklahoma State. Texas-El Paso's idea of improvement is losing with more dignity: The Miners were beaten by an average score of 48-6 in 1981 and 35-15 in '82, but only 28-18 in '83.
3. NORTH CAROLINA
5. GEORGIA TECH
6. NORTH CAROLINA ST.
7. WAKE FOREST
BIG EIGHT PROJECTION
3. OKLAHOMA STATE
6. KANSAS STATE
7. IOWA STATE
BIG TEN PROJECTION
1. OHIO STATE
5. MICHIGAN STATE
1. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
2. BOWLING GREEN
3. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
5. BALL STATE
6. WESTERN MICHIGAN
7. OHIO U.
8. MIAMI OF OHIO
9. KENT STATE
10. EASTERN MICHIGAN
2. INDIANA STATE
3. ILLINOIS STATE
4. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
5. WICHITA STATE
7. WEST TEXAS STATE
2. ARIZONA STATE
5. WASHINGTON STATE
10. OREGON STATE
PROJECTED PCAA FINISH
1. NEVADA, LAS VEGAS
2. CAL STATE-FULLERTON
3. FRESNO STATE
4. SAN JOSE STATE
6. NEW MEXICO STATE
7. CAL STATE-LONG BEACH
8. UTAH STATE
PROJECTED SEC FINISH
8. OLE MISS
9. MISS STATE
PROJECTED SWC FINISH
3. TEXAS A&M
7. TEXAS TECH
PROJECTED WAC FINISH
1. NEW MEXICO
6. AIR FORCE
7. COLORADO STATE
8. SAN DIEGO STATE
9. TEXAS-EL PASO