Stanford's long list of golden quarterbacks (Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, etc.) might have a worthy addition if sophomore Mike Cordova works out. The 6'4" 220-pounder is not the best passer on the team, or the best field general, but he's probably the best all-round man at the position. The Cardinals are likely to do less passing this season because they have two good runners in Scott Laidlaw and Ron Inge.
Indeed, Stanford again appears to be the best bet to upset USC. The offensive line is strong, with Keith Rowen returning for another season at tackle and frosh starting Guards Gary Anderson and Alex Karakozoff bound to be improved as sophs. Tackle Al TenBruggencate should be able to block people with his name alone. There are three good wide receivers, led by All-Pacific Eight Bill Singler. The defense features such returnees as All-America Ends Roger Stillwell and Pat Donovan and All-Coast Linebacker Gordon Riegel.
UCLA has a new coach, Dick Vermeil, who has tossed aside the Wishbone and installed the Veer. Vermeil is determined not only to change formations but to change the Bruins' image to that of a mighty defensive team. He really does not have much choice since UCLA lost its three top ground-gainers. Back to run the Veer is Quarterback John Sciarra (pronounced "sharra"), who started three games in '73 and shared time with Mark Harmon in the rest.
For that improved defense Vermeil has a talented JC transfer, 6'4", 260-pound Tackle Cliff Frazier, plus All-Coast Cornerback John Nanoski and Linebacker Fulton Kuykendall.
Elsewhere, the league is rife with quarterback trouble. Cal's Vince Ferragamo transferred to Nebraska, conceding the position to Steve Bartkowski. At Oregon new Coach Don Read can rely on his tough defense, led by Tackle Reggie Lewis, and an offense featuring 1,000-yard gainer Don Reynolds. Washington is another team going with the Veer, but still hopes for continued passing success. Washington State, led by Fullback Andrew Jones, second-leading rusher in the league in '73, might improve on its 5-6 record. Oregon State has lots of players back, which doesn't mean much after a 2-9 season.
"Our league hasn't changed a bit," says Michigan State Coach Denny Stolz. "It's Ohio State and Michigan on top again. Below that, I don't know of anybody with an outstanding football team. There should be a big scramble, and we hope to be in it." If some highly touted freshmen live up to their notices, Stolz could take the play away from the others. Much depends on Quarterback Charles Baggett coming back strong after knee surgery.
Pity new Iowa Coach Bob Commings. The Hawkeyes were 0-11 last year and start out this time vs. Michigan, UCLA, Penn State and Southern California. Northwestern also has a nasty schedule—Notre Dame and Nebraska back to back—and John Pont's second season is not likely to be a picnic.
The Big Ten dark horse is Minnesota, which was 6-2 in league competition last year and has won 10 of its last 14 games. Coach Cal Stoll has a good runner in Rick Upchurch, but for the third straight season the Gophers will be breaking in an inexperienced quarterback. Last year's starter, John Lawing, has quit football to concentrate on his prelaw studies. "We haven't reached Big Ten parity yet," says Stoll, "but we proved last fall we have inched closer."
Lee Corso, who was such a success at Louisville, should do better than 2-9 in his second year at Indiana. Quinn Buckner will be following the basketball coach's orders to stay away from football (he was a fine defensive back), but Corso has some worthwhile returnees, especially at the so-called "skill" positions. Corso envisions Quarterback Bob Kramer flinging to Receivers Trent Smock and Mike Flanagan. At Champaign-Urbana, the Fumbling Illini (29 lost in '73) hope to hang on to the football better and score more than 19 touchdowns.
Wisconsin Coach John Jardine is pleased with a good spring practice and good recruiting. The Badgers should improve behind the running of All-Big Ten Tailback Bill Marek and the throwing of Gregg Bohlig, who was No. 2 in the conference in passing and total offense. Purdue was 5-6 in Alex Agase's first year. This time, Agase says, "We have the nucleus to be a winner." Notable in that nucleus are Defensive Tackle Ken Novak and Fullback Pete Gross.
Colorado, which plummeted into a three-way tie with Iowa State and Kansas State for last place in the Big Eight in 1973, could take off on some kind of Rocky Mountain high in 1974. True, the Buffaloes gave up an alarming average of 22.7 points a game last fall, but new Coach Bill Mallory specializes in turning soft noses hard; at Miami of Ohio he not only compiled an enviable 39-12 record, his Redskins led the nation in total defense last year. Mallory, who goes around growling things like "I want 11 people on that ballcarrier!" inherits a more meritorious offensive roster. Standouts include All-Big Eight Guard Doug Payton and sophomore Tailback Billy Waddy.
Kansas State will get in somebody's way even though the Wildcats went Colorado almost one better—or almost one worse, as it were—by allowing an average of 23.6 points a game last season. Coach Vince Gibson, who considered 1973 a rebuilding year and had a 5-6 record to prove it, can expect some much-needed help from sophomore Linebackers Theopilis Bryant and Carl Pennington. "They're the best I've ever seen," says an unblushing Gibson. Only three starters return to the Wildcat offense, but one of them is Quarterback Steve Grogan and he may be enough.
There may be hard times at Kansas, for All-America Dave Jaynes, the drop-back artist who passed for 2,131 yards last fall, has graduated. While grooming replacement Scott McMichael, a red-shirt sophomore, Coach Don Fambrough wisely plans to rely more on the ground game, particularly the punishing runs of Fullback Robert Miller. Whenever McMichael does want to test his arm, Emmett Edwards will be around to do some of the wondrous things that made him the Big Eight's leading receiver last season. On defense, End Dean Zook (whose brother John plays for the Atlanta Falcons) and Back Kurt Knoff are all-conference pluses.
Having come up with three head coaches in the past four years, Oklahoma State must now find replacements for 12 starters. Quarterback Charlie Weatherbie sparkled as a freshman last fall, but a lack of good receivers may dim his luster. One happy alternative is to hand off to Fullback George Palmer.
Iowa State, which lost four games by a total of 13 points, and then upset Missouri and Oklahoma State, must again be rated unpredictable. One shining certainty is that Mike Strachan. who has already raced for 2,364 yards, will again be an all-conference terror.
In the powerful SEC, where even a fifth-or sixth-place team is a candidate for national recognition, Florida and Auburn bear close scrutiny. The Gators were struggling last season until Don Gaffney stepped in at quarterback, whereupon they won five straight for an eventual 7-5 record. The defense—best in the SEC last year—has seven returnees. Berj Yepremian, Garo's little brother, will do the placekicking.
Injury and inexperience plagued Auburn in 1973. The Tigers finished 6-6 and 2-5 in the SEC. Coach Shug Jordan hopes to set things right with the Veer and, on occasion, a five-man defensive front. "We need to give our opponents a new look," Shug says. Anticipate more passing, too, with the return of Quarterback Phil Gargis and Wide Receiver Thomas Gossom, who combined for two touchdowns in the Sun Bowl.
The restoration of Kentucky football last year coincided with the dedication of a $12 million, 57,000-seat stadium. More pertinent, it coincided with the arrival of Coach Fran Curci and Tailback Sonny Collins. The Wildcats' 5-6 record may not look like much but it was the team's best since 1965. Curci was SEC Coach of the Year in one poll, and Collins, who rushed for 1,213 yards, second best in league history, was Player of the Year.
Mississippi State, loaded with six offensive and 10 defensive returnees, is looking to improve last fall's 4-5-2 record. Like Auburn, the Bulldogs are going to the Veer and the "50" defense. "We're faster, quicker and have better players," says Coach Bob Tyler.
Among Vanderbilt's 17 returning starters are Quarterback Fred Fisher, who led the SEC in passing and total offense, and Defensive Back Scott Wingfield, who led it in interceptions.
Mississippi was a surprising third in the conference last year, but graduation losses were heavy. New Coach Ken Cooper has a lot of rebuilding to do.
North Carolina does not have a Charlie (Choo Choo) Justice in its backfield, but it does have a James (Boom Boom) Betterson and enough other good athletes to help Coach Bill Dooley's Tar Heels regain football respectability, despite a schedule that includes nonleague games against Pittsburgh, Ohio University, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Offensive Guard Ken Huff, who comes from Coronado, Calif., and Tight End Charles Waddell will help make the I formation work, but the quarterback spot is open. The two top candidates played baseball during spring practice.
Dooley's defense should be O.K., too, with Defensive Tackle Ronnie Robinson and two-time All-ACC Linebacker Jimmy DeRatt, who is being moved to strong safety. He was a very good tailback as a freshman and "he is going to be a great safety," says a Carolina assistant. "He has a nose for the ball. Before the season is over he may be the best defensive back in the South."
Ex-Virginia star Sonny Randle returns to his alma mater after a fine pro career and a dandy coaching record at East Carolina. He inherits All-ACC Linebacker Dick Ambrose and Quarterback Scott Gardner, who was seventh in the country in total offense last year.
Clemson, where Red Parker is in his second year as head man, has a tough schedule (Texas A&M, Tennessee and Georgia) that will test such good players as Offensive Guard Ken Peeples. Duke looks impressive, with a strong defense led by still another All-ACC linebacker, Keith Stoneback, but it is in the pass-and-catch department that the Blue Devils probably will be at their showiest. Quarterback Hal Spears has a nifty target in Ben Ford ham.
Wake Forest, the conference doormat last fall with a 1-9-1 record (the Deacons beat Florida State by two points in their opener), might do a little better, but right in the middle of the schedule lurk three straight road games: Oklahoma, Penn State and Maryland. However, Wake Forest may not be kicked around much longer: it has an offensive tackle candidate named Richard Nixon.
Bury and forget all those Aggie jokes that have been so popular in Dallas bars and at Houston cocktail parties. Texas A&M Coach Emory Bellard expects his team to be 80 to 100% improved in 1974, and nobody around the league is scoffing. That is because the Aggies, who had a 5 and 6 record, led the SWC in total defense in 1973 and not one starter graduated. Last year's team was also the third-highest-scoring outfit in the school's history; moreover, all 38 touchdowns were produced by freshmen and sophomores.
The likely starting quarterback is sophomore David Walker. Mike Jay was No. 1 the first five games in '73, but Walker beat him out to start the final six, in which the Aggies were 3-3, losing by four points each to Arkansas and Rice.
Arkansas is the other possibility to upset Texas and Texas Tech. The Razor-backs have been down the last couple of seasons (5-5-1, 6-5), partly because of letdowns after season-opening losses to USC. Unfortunately, the first opponent this fall again will be USC. Still, Coach Frank Broyles has plenty of talent, notably All-SWC Defensive Tackle Jon Rhiddlehoover. Arkansas will go with the Wishbone.
Southern Methodist has Tight End Oscar Roan of Dallas, who caught 16 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns last fall, but the Mustangs are woefully thin. Rice has definitely bitten off too much: Notre Dame, Houston, LSU, Texas and Texas Tech. But Coach Al Con-over seems singularly unafraid, saying, "You've got to play the best to beat the best, so we are going to challenge 'em." Beating 'em will be another thing, but Conover has a good kicking game, plus Guard Cornelius Walker and Split End Ed Lofton, the latter from that famous cow town, Brooklyn.
Texas Christian used the I and the Wishbone last season—neither with great success—but is trying the Pro Set in 1974. The Frogs are counting on senior Mike Luttrell, a power runner with good hands. He gained 865 yards last year despite missing most of four games. Neal Jeffrey will be quarterbacking Baylor for the third straight year. The son of a onetime Bear All-America halfback, Jeffrey led the league in passing and total offense in 1973.
Fans of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane insist that Rod Shoate of Oklahoma is not the best linebacker in the state. That honor, they say, belongs to their own Al Humphrey, a 6'3", 225-pound senior who was the runner-up for defensive player of the year in the MVC in 1973. Humphrey is just one reason Tulsa is favored to win the championship over North Texas State and Louisville. Another is Running Back Freddie Carolina, than whom nothing will be finer, whether carrying the ball or catching passes from Quarterback Jeb Blount.
A shortcoming is an offensive line that lacks experience, but Coach F. A. Dry claims his best athletes are there. "I think this conference has more balance than it has had in the past several years," he says, "and that will help make all of us better teams."
North Texas State, which tied for the title in '73, is an enigma, although Coach Hayden Fry has a lot of transfers who were Texas high school hotshots. The Mean Green welcome back Walter Chapman, a defensive lineman who was MVC freshman of the year.
Peacocks are known for strutting, but Louisville has a Peacock (Walter, a junior from Indianapolis) who flies. He carried 290 times in 1973 for 1,294 yards and 72 points. He also averaged 32.9 yards per kickoff return. The school insists, however, that its nickname will remain Cardinals. Coach T. W. Alley has lost 14 starters, and the Cards do not figure to improve on last year's 5-6 record.
The fact that the MVC is still primarily a basketball circuit—or that the teams are evenly matched—is proved by the '73 won-lost records: Tulsa 6-5, North Texas State 5-5-1, Louisville 5-6, New Mexico State 5-6, Wichita State 4-7, Drake 2-9 and West Texas State 2-9. The eighth MVC school, Bradley, does not field a football team. Commissioner Mickey Holmes hopes that the new NCAA rule limiting a school to 30 football grants a year will pep up the MVC. Presumably, prospects not vacuumed up by the Big Eight, Big Ten and SWC will be more plentiful and more talented.
While most of the attention is focused on Arizona and Arizona State, the rest of the widespread WAC is planning upsets. Three schools have new head coaches—Tom Lovat at Utah, Bill Mondt at New Mexico and Gil Bartosh at Texas-El Paso. And Brigham Young promises to continue its aerial show with Quarterback Gary Sheide, second-leading passer in the nation last year, and his favorite receiver, Jay Miller. The Cougars also had a pretty good defense in '73, and many of the key men are back, including two-time All-WAC Tackle Paul Linford.
Coach Sark Arslanian had a creditable 5-6 record his first year in charge of once-impotent Colorado State, but he now has gaping holes to fill in his offensive line and he must find a passer capable of getting the football to Flanker Willie Miller, who somehow found his way to Fort Collins from Birmingham, Ala. The best newcomer in the whole league might be Middle Linebacker Kevin McLain, a California JC transfer, who will call defensive signals for the Rams.
Bartosh, who was an assistant at Texas A&M, will have his hands full bringing respectability back to UTEP. What he has done so far is assemble lots of new talent, including 25 freshmen. The Miners were 0-11 in 1973, so it is doubtful Bartosh can get over .500 his first season. Wyoming promises to run more, partly because Lawrence Gaines and Charlie Shaw were impressive in the spring. Utah gets back its leading rusher, Ike Spencer, and two good linebackers in John Huddleston and Rick Bareness. Too bad new Coach Lovat has UCLA and LSU on his schedule and the last three games on the road. Bill Mondt's New Mexico Lobos will use the pro set instead of the Wishbone.
Any way you cut it, which at San Diego State is long, deep and often, the Aztecs are overwhelming favorites to win their third consecutive conference title. Yes, the San Diegans have lost Quarterback Jesse Freitas, the 1973 national leader in passing and total offense. And yes, eight all-conference players have departed. But no, Coach Claude Gilbert is not fretting one bit.
There are even some who say that Quarterback Craig Penrose, a classy transfer from Colorado, will make everyone forget old Jesse What's His Name. All four of the Aztecs' top rushers—Frank Geary, Dave Darden, Bill Kramer and Tim Thorn—are back, along with their most effective blocker, All-PCAA Guard Tony Bachman. Linebacker Bobby Henderson and Back Monte Jackson, both all-conference veterans, are stars on a defense that is, as Gilbert says, "awesome."
Unlike the Aztecs, who have somehow conspired to play eight of their games at home this season, San Jose State faces the grind of playing seven straight on the road. To survive that ordeal, the Spartans must rev up a sputtering running attack to match the aerial circus featuring Quarterback Craig Kimball, the seventh-ranking passer in the U.S. last year, and Wide Receiver Ike McBee.
At Pacific, old grad Dick Bass is an "immortal." Immortality must be near for Tailback Willard Harrell, the nation's top all-purpose runner in 1973; he is on the verge of surpassing Bass's career rushing record. But one superman does not a superteam make.
"Considering our record last fall," says Fresno State Coach J. R. Boone, "we had an exceptional recruiting year." Which is another way of saying that the Bulldogs, who were 2-9 in '73, need all the help they can get. Long Beach State, hit by NCAA penalties on top of a 1-9-1 season, hopes to regroup its forces under new Coach Wayne Howard. And Fullerton figures to be the PCAA's new sixth member in more ways than one.
Does the adage that the best offense is a good defense still hold up? Watch East Carolina this season and find out.
Stripped of nine starters, the Pirate attack that averaged 32 points a game and helped East Carolina win two straight SC titles is being rebuilt virtually from scratch. The defense, on the other hand, shy only two regulars from a snarly pack known as "Captain Crunch and the Wild Dogs," heeds only to be unleashed. Captain Crunch is Linebacker Danny Kepley, a two-time All-SC choice who did everything last season—93 solo tackles, 94 assists, five interceptions, eight passes knocked down—but declare war on the Union.
"If a ballcarrier stays in bounds," says Pat Dye, East Carolina's new coach, "Danny will make the tackle." And if Dye can bring into play some of the offensive expertise he learned as a longtime assistant to Bear Bryant, the East will rise again.
Furman, Richmond, William & Mary may sound like a liberated law firm, but each is in fact a serious contender for the SC title. Furman is the league's upstart, having finished fourth in 1973 after being picked for last, a feat that earned Art Baker SC co-Coach of the Year honors in his rookie season. Among the eight freshmen who started for Baker's "Kiddie Corps" last fall, Quarterback David Whitehurst and Running Back Larry Robinson are now mature threats, and the Paladins' secondary, No. 8 nationally in pass defense, has surely improved with age.
Jim Tait, the new head man at Richmond, inherits an 8-2 team and such prize packages as Quarterback Harry Knight and three prime receivers. On defense, though, Tait has been all but read out of the will as only two regulars are back.
William & Mary, coming off its first winning season (6-5) in seven years, is still in high gear offensively with its entire backfield returning, plus All-SC Dick Pawlewicz, a versatile "skilled end" who alternates as runner, blocking back and all-purpose receiver.
Appalachian State has 11 starters returning, The Citadel 17. The Mountaineers boast Quarterback Phil Coccioletti and sophomore Punter Joe Parker, No. 5 in the nation last year; the Bulldogs feature soph Linebacker Brian Ruff and Fullback Andrew Johnson, a "miniature Jim Brown." But between them, the two teams won only three conference games last fall and figure to establish a holding pattern in the second division. VMI, which lost Tom Schultze, its finest passer ever, will be lucky to improve on its 3-8 record.
As billed, Miami of Ohio is indeed the "Cradle of Coaches." Trouble is, that means that the Redskins, the stingiest defensive team around last year, are setups for the old cradle-robbing play. Bill Mallory, now in his first year at Colorado, is the latest Miami coach to be filched, and Dick Crum, his successor, will undoubtedly be the next—provided that he lives up to the Redskin tradition.
Considering that Miami was the undefeated Mid-Am champion last season and beat Florida in the Tangerine Bowl, that is no small order. But Crum has 10 starters returning, including Guard Brad Cousino, the 1973 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and all-conference Offensive Tackle Mike Biehle. Steve Sanna and Sherman Smith will again alternate at quarterback, but Rob Carpenter and Randy Walker can hardly make up for the loss of Bob Hitchens, the Redskins' top alltime rusher. Still, Miami has a lighting chance of retaining its Mid-Am title: at the very worst it could tumble to third place.
On paper MAC runner-up Kent State, 9-2 last year and on the upswing, has the edge over Miami. The double-barreled attack that averaged 27 points a game is reloaded and seems as deadly as ever. Big Shot No. 1 is All-MAC Tailback Larry Poole, who raced for 1,063 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall. Big Shot No. 2 is Greg Kokal, who fired at will for 1,776 yards and seven TDs as a sophomore. The Golden Flashes lost their three top receivers but Ken Dooner, Willie Davis and Carlos Cato are ready replacements. On defense, Coach Don James can count on All-MAC Linemen Walt Vrabel and Larry Faulk.
Although Ohio University was only 5-5 in 1973, there is cause for cheer: nine starters return on offense, eight on defense. That could total up to a few timely upsets, especially if Quarterback Rich Bevly, a strong but erratic passer, and leading rushers Dave Houseton and L. C. Lyons get it together.
The Toledo Rockets will again take off with Slick Gene Swick, the nation's sixth-leading passer last year, throwing to Randy Whateley and Don Seymour—and then just as likely come plummeting down again with a dead-cold ground game. It averaged only 121 yards a Saturday in 1973. Lopsided attacks have a way of failing, as evidenced by the fact that Toledo lost its third straight game to the alumni this spring.
Bowling Green's Don Nehlen calls his team the "No Names" for good reason. No fewer than 16 regulars have exited, and the renown of Linebacker Joe Russell is not expected to restore the Falcons to last year's 7-3 celebrity status. Western Michigan, strengthened by the return of Quarterback Paul Jorgensen but severely weakened on defense, must come out on the long end of more than one high-scoring game to extricate itself from last place.
As sure as the snowflakes that descend on Hanover, N.H. each football season come the reports that this is the year that Dartmouth will be dethroned as Ivy League champion. But the Big Green has won or shared the title five seasons running, grabbing it outright last fall after Coach Jake Crouthamel had the gall to dismiss 1973 as a "'rebuilding year." This season it may be more difficult to repeat.
On the debit side, Dartmouth has lost its three top rushers and a dozen starters in all. Most missed will be Rick Klupchak, who broke the school rushing record set by Crouthamel in 1959. On the credit side, Quarterback Tom Snickenberger, a rangy 6'5" option passer, Split End Tom Fleming, the league's leading punt returner, and All-Ivy Linebacker Reggie Williams are back in uniform.
The team most likely to depose Dartmouth is Penn, largely because of a pair of players who shattered no fewer than 20 Quaker offensive records last fall. Marty Vaughn, passing for 17 TDs and 1,926 yards, led the league and ranked fifth nationally in total offense. Adolph (Beep Beep) Bellizeare, the most productive runner in Penn history, was the Ivy League's top scorer and the NCAA's third-leading all-purpose rusher.
Yale finished strong last year with five wins in its final six games and should continue its momentum with 14 regulars returning. Among them is Rudy Green, the Ivy's top rusher. Defensively, the Elis must rebuild their front four.
Harvard will be satisfied with more of the same from Neal Miller, the compact fullback who rocked Dartmouth for 114 yards and Penn for 130, and Pat McInally, the 6'6" split end who gathered in 56 passes to finish second nationally.
Brown, down for so long, came scrambling back under rookie Coach John Anderson last year to equal its best Ivy record (4-3). With 12 starters returning and a bumper crop of sophomores, the Bruins look first-division bound. Cornell, hobbled by injuries last fall, will be happy if it can keep runners Dan Malone and Don Fanelli out of traction long enough for them to do their very formidable thing. Columbia figures to better Princeton in the Battle for the Bottom.