It has been 10 years since Hurricanes did any real damage in America—the Miami Hurricanes, that is. In that time four new coaches have come to Coral Gables and the best any could do was whip Miami into a cool breeze. Now into the calm comes Lou Saban, late of the Buffalo Bills by way of a 19-day stopover as athletic director at the University of Cincinnati. Spring practice was never tougher, scholarship holders were dropped, the old slot I was scrapped for a pro set, flashy new uniforms were ordered. Still, real improvement over last year's 3-8 record is probably a year away, largely because of this year's schedule which is a mini-tour of the Top 20. Miami opens at Ohio State, later plays Penn State, Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame. The defense is built around Middle Guard Don Latimer, but offense is where the main problem lies: no depth at quarterback. E. J. Baker missed three games last season with injuries and senior George Mason and freshman Kenny McMillian share a lack of experience. But there are two experienced fullbacks, Woody Bennett and Ken Johnson, and the halfback is Ottis Jerome (O.J.) Anderson, who gained 918 yards as a sophomore. If Anderson can look enough like his namesake, Miami just may smash apart some bowl dreams like real Hurricanes.
Memphis State has 28 lettermen returning to a team that missed the NCAA fumble record (38) by four last season (it lost 34), had only three field goals, was ripped apart at midseason by a boycott of some black players and still had a 7-4 record. Ready to go is Quarterback Lloyd Patterson, who threw two touchdown passes in each of his first seven games, and 6'3", 300-pound Offensive Tackle Ricky Jenkins.
Georgia Tech's upset victory over Notre Dame added little to its 4-6-1 record, but it may have foreshadowed the 1977 season. The young Yellow Jackets should improve with four-year Linebacker Lucius Sanford, Halfback Eddie Lee Ivery and Quarterback Gary Lanier returning. Florida State unveils passing whiz Jimmy Jordan, a sophomore who threw for 4,000 yards as a high school senior. With Halfback Larry Key, the all-time leading Seminole ground-gainer, and a veteran defense, bettering last year's 5-6 record should be no problem. The same holds true of Tulane, which was 2-9 last season in Coach Larry Smith's rookie year. With 42 lettermen, including Quarterback Roch Hontas, Kicker Ed Murray (10 of 17 field goals) and Linebacker John Ammerman, the Green Wave could roll to six wins.
East Carolina and William & Mary have quit the Southern Conference, largely as a result of little national recognition. Last season East Carolina was 9-2, won its third conference title in five years and went bowl-less. Though 11 starters are gone, Linebacker Harold Randolph (108 tackles) will be there as the Pirates face a schedule that includes Duke, South Carolina and Southwest Louisiana. William & Mary, 7-4 last year, fields Tailback Jim Kruis (1,164 yards) and nine starters from a defense that ranked fifth in the nation against the pass.
Coach Jim Carlen has performed miracles at South Carolina, where back-to-back winning seasons equal just that—a miracle. The Gamecocks were 6-5 last year (7-4 in 1975), despite season-long injuries to Quarterback Ron Bass, who still completed 110 of 199 passes for 1,320 yards. If Bass stays healthy, South Carolina may have three straight winning seasons.
Cincinnati got through a brutal schedule last year with a 9-2 record, including wins over Arizona State and Louisville. The defense, among the nation's toughest, has eight starters back, including Linebacker Mike Woods and Safety Heard Robinson. The Bearcats' new coach, Ralph Staub, has an experienced backfield that includes Quarterback Art Bailey and Tailback Curtiss Williams. The last offense Staub built was Ohio State's. Louisville went from 1-10 to 4-7 in Coach Vince Gibson's first two years. "This year we learn to win," says Gibson, and with eager pupils like Tailback Calvin Prince (1,028 yards) and Linebacker Ricky Skiles, he has reason to be confident.
San Diego State used to be as air-oriented as Lockheed. Then along came David (Deacon) Turner, who rushed for 982 yards last year, despite missing all or part of five games. He returns along with 5'5½", 180-pound Fullback Binky Benton and Linebackers Whip Walton and Mike Douglass. The Aztecs can't be expected to improve much on 10-1, but they shouldn't do much worse.
Air Force hopes to better its 4-7 record on the strength of two sophomores who, as yearlings, led the Falcons to late-season wins over Arizona State and Wyoming. Dave Ziebart completed 19 of 26 passes for 339 yards against Wyoming, and David Thomas, a 6'2", 235-pound fullback, ran for 440 yards and eight touchdowns, most of them in the final four games.
West Virginia has a nationally ranked battery—Quarterback Dan Kendra (113 completions) and Wide Receiver Steve Lewis (48 receptions), two fullbacks who combined for more than 1,000 yards and one of the nation's top schoolboy runners, Robert (The Great) Alexander—with which to improve a 5-6 record. Rutgers has the longest major-college winning streak in the country—18—but chances for 19 are slim; the Scarlet Knights open against Penn State. After that, only William & Mary, Tulane and Temple interrupt an otherwise easy trip. Boston College may improve on an 8-3 record, but must replace Glen Capriola (1,003 yards). Neil Green could be the answer. In 30 minutes against Texas in last season's opener, he gained 113 yards, then was injured and lost for most of the year.
Navy started as many as eight plebes last season but came within an eyelash of upsetting Notre Dame and won three of its last four games. Coach George Welsh feels the Middies are capable of repeating their 7-4 performance of 1975. Syracuse was looking to return to the limelight in 1974 when it hired Coach Frank Maloney, one of Bo Schembechler's top assistants at Michigan. Last year the Orangemen went 3-8. This year, 6-5 looks like the best Maloney can hope for in the final year of his contract, and this anticipates a top performance from junior Quarterback Bill Hurley.
Leamon Hall is not a building at West Point, though someday it may be. Hall is the quarterback who has already smashed 18 Army passing records. He is back, along with 17 starters and Spartacus, the mule. Chances are good that last year's 5-6 record will be this year's.