Florida junior quarterback Danny Wuerffel walked into an
interview carrying an umbrella, which, on a scale of likely
accessories of the contemporary college male, ranks somewhere
below six-packs, Walkmans, lava lamps and even books. Hey, Mr.
Big Man on Campus, no plastic pocket protector? "But I was
wearing a nice shirt," Wuerffel protested, "and there were
reports of storms all over the news, and...."
That's Wuerffel: a good decision-maker and very dry.
Of course, Gator quarterbacks must be ready for anything. Terry
Dean went from Heisman Trophy candidate to bench warmer midway
through the 1994 season in a demotion that sparked thunderclaps
of controversy. Wuerffel, reinheriting the job he and Dean had
shared the previous year, finished 5-1-1. Now coach Steve
Spurrier has designated Wuerffel as the Man, but Eric Kresser, a
strong-armed junior, looms large in a program that has no regard
for tenure. "Two years ago a player complained there was no job
security," says Spurrier, whose revolving quarterbacks threw 43
touchdowns passes last season, 14 more than any other Division
I-A school. "That was one of the best compliments I ever
received. I try to get the best players on the field. Sometimes
your best players change."
Wuerffel is from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., by way of the old Chip
Hilton novels. He is strapping, blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed,
gracious and devout, an Air Force chaplain's son who boasts a
3.68 grade point average in public relations. Alas, his one wart
is public: Wuerffel's funky two-piece throwing motion--he cocks
the ball behind his head and drops his elbow--saps his arm
strength. But his mechanics are improving. "In practice you
wouldn't think he was anything special," Spurrier says. "But
give him a game uniform, put 84,000 people in the stands, and
something comes over him." Wuerffel has thrown for almost 4,000
career yards and 40 touchdowns while starting only 14 games; his
22 TD passes in 1993 were an NCAA freshman record. "It's fun
here," Wuerffel says. "I've been able to throw for more yards in
half a season than most quarterbacks do in a year."
The Gators, whose 43.4 points per game was second in the nation
in 1994, will continue to move the football at Mach 5 with a
talented group of wide receivers that includes senior Chris
Doering and sophomores Reidel Anthony and Ike Hilliard. Spurrier
also is tinkering with the idea of integrating his new starting
tight end, junior walk-on Tremayne Allen, into the offense.
Sophomores Fred Taylor and Elijah Williams, who combined for
1,525 rushing yards, again will split the tailback job. There is
no tailback controversy at Florida. But a defense that allowed
the most passing yards (5,354) in the SEC the last two seasons
might have trouble keeping up its end, especially after the loss
of linemen Ellis Johnson and Kevin Carter, both first-round NFL
draft picks. Senior defensive end Mark Campbell, another
potential first-rounder, could also play some tackle. Campbell,
who moved to Miami from Jamaica in 1986, went out for football
his junior year in high school and knew so little about the game
that he couldn't dress himself for his first practice. Now he
spends his Saturdays undressing quarterbacks.
Florida competes for more championships than anyone in football:
the SEC Eastern Division title, the SEC overall championship
(which it has won the past two years) and the all-important
yet unofficial state title--a weekly war for position in the
polls (and for recruits) with Florida State and Miami. Although
the Gators don't play the Hurricanes, their finale against the
Seminoles is brutal preparation for the postseason. Florida
could challenge for No. 1 if Wuerffel plays as flawlessly as he
conducts himself off the field, but somebody or something may
rain on the Gators' parade.
7. PENN STATE
Why aren't the Nittany Lions worried? Surely a little free-
floating anxiety and an acid stomach or two should be detectable
around State College. This is a team that was picked clean by
the NFL, losing three All-Americas in last spring's draft.
Quarterback Kerry Collins, running back Ki-Jana Carter and tight
end Kyle Brady were Penn State's heart and soul, and three of
the first nine players selected. A team can't just reload after
that, can it?
Maybe the Nittany Lions can. That would explain their lack of
concern. Believe it or not, they harbor hopes of surpassing
their accomplishments of last season, when they merely went 12-0
and won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. Just what else can they
expect? "Nothing less than a national championship," says Bobby
Engram, the All-America receiver and fifth-year senior who
returned to pursue that goal. "We have the nucleus."
The Nittany Lions are smug about junior quarterback Wally
Richardson, who has been groomed to take over for Collins.
Richardson, who is 6'4" and 211 pounds, possesses as strong an
arm and even more mobility than his predecessor. He lacks only
Replacing Carter, who was the first player taken in the draft,
will be Mike Archie, who at 5'8" and 202 pounds is squatter and
a step slower than Carter but more versatile. In addition to
scoring five rushing touchdowns last fall, he caught 22 passes
for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a couple of
passes, completing both for TDs. Archie would have been a star
by now had he not spent three years backing up Carter.
There is little cause for mourning over the loss at tight end,
either. Yes, Brady is gone, but his replacement, junior Keith
Olsommer, is 6'4", 245 pounds and nearly as good a blocker. As
for the wideouts, Engram and junior Freddie Scott may be the
best one-two punch in the country. Coach Joe Paterno, in fact,
refers to them as "a couple of Jerry Rice types."
There are some question marks, however. Penn State lost much of
its linebacking corps, and while the coaching staff likes the
young talent at the position, those players will need a few
games to settle in. And Richardson must turn out to be
everything the Lions hope he is if they are to seriously contend
for the national title.
After the completion of spring practice, Paterno was asked by
reporters if Richardson was ready to take command of the team.
"I don't know why you guys are so worried about Wally," he said.
"This is his fourth year, for crying out loud. Jeez. He'll
handle the whole load. You guys tell me we only have three plays
It may seem that Bill McCartney, the quirky and revered program
builder, might've bolted at the worst possible time for
Colorado. Following last season the Buffaloes lost their
starting quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner and the best
receiver in college ball. But McCartney didn't exactly leave the
Buffaloes destitute. Despite the prospect of eating Nebraska's
dust again, Colorado is one of the few teams that could absorb
a winter of such body blows and still be a national power.
Is there another school--west of Miami, anyway--with so many
compelling questions to answer? Consider: Baby-faced 34-year-old
coach Rick Neuheisel has never run a program on any level. He
brought with him an unproven offensive coordinator, Karl
Dorrell, a new wide-open offense, a new aggressive defensive set
and a raw quarterback he rashly says could be "the next Joe
Montana." Junior Koy Detmer may well be a better passer than his
predecessor Kordell Stewart was, but he doesn't have much
experience. Nor do the numerous receivers looking to replace
All-America Michael Westbrook. Nor do the numerous running backs
hoping to make Boulder forget Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.
"We have to get mature real quick," says Herchell Troutman, the
sophomore most likely to start at tailback. "It's bringing out
the competitor in all the players. And we're all still trying to
figure out what he's going to do."
In other words, Neuheisel and his team are still feeling each
other out. What's already clear, however, is that under
Neuheisel the Buffaloes will be a more relaxed crew than they
were under McCartney, who is a devout Christian. It was
Neuheisel, after all, who serenaded a female booster group last
fall by strumming a guitar and warbling an anti-Nebraska ditty
set to the tune of Jimmy Buffet's Let's Get Drunk and Screw.
Considering the schedule, better to laugh than cry. McCartney's
legacy includes another brutal nonconference campaign: dates
with Texas A&M, Wisconsin and Colorado State. Then, on Oct. 28,
the Huskers come to town.
The focus of the offense will be Detmer. Protected by All-Big
Eight senior center Bryan Stoltenberg and guards Heath Irwin and
Chris Naeole, Detmer will get plenty of time to make Stewart a
fond memory. Not that Detmer is worried. As the younger brother
of Brigham Young's 1990 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Ty,
one of the most prolific passers in college history, Koy has
lots of experience following big acts.
"Kordell accomplished a lot, but my brother achieved so much
it's almost overshadowing," Detmer says. "My brother's shoes are
a little tougher to fill. I've gone through this all my life."
Football people would have you believe that their sport is
complex beyond words. That theory will not wash this fall in
Knoxville, where the season comes down to this: one game, one
player. The game is Sept. 16 in Gainesville, Fla.; the player is
sophomore quarterback Peyton Manning. If they beat Florida, the
Volunteers will likely ride the player through the season, which
should end with them in the SEC Championship Game. If they lose
to the Gators, mediocrity will beckon.
Too simple? When a reporter told Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer
in July that it might be time to start viewing tape of Florida,
Fulmer shot back, "We started looking at Florida a long time
ago." And when Fulmer promoted John Chavis to defensive
coordinator last winter, he told Chavis to make the defense more
aggressive, largely in response to the Gators' offense, which
has rung up 72 points on the Volunteers over the last two years.
When senior offensive tackle Jason Layman examines the Tennessee
schedule, he stops at the third game. Says Layman, "If we lose
that one, our season is over." In short, the consensus in
Knoxville is that the Gators, who have won the SEC Eastern
Division title in each of the three years since the conference
split into two, stand between Tennessee and its first berth in
the title game and anything beyond--a top bowl, a high ranking, a
Nobody was thinking about a national title last year when the
Vols got off to a 1-3 start, which included an embarrassing 31-0
loss to Florida. During that time the first- and second-string
quarterbacks, Jerry Colquitt and Todd Helton, suffered
season-ending injuries. Manning, the 6'5", 205-pound son of
Archie Manning, first saw action against UCLA in the season
opener after Colquitt went down. Determined to impress the
upperclassmen with his maturity, Manning began barking orders in
the huddle. Tennessee was trailing 18-0, and the veterans were
not in the mood for Manning's cheerleading. "We've been here
three years, we know what to do," Layman said. "Shut up and call
By November, Manning had found his place and for the season
completed 61.8% of his passes for 11 touchdowns while throwing
only six interceptions. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year,
and Tennessee won seven of its last eight games.
With Manning at the helm, production should not be an issue. The
questions are on defense, which has eight first-stringers coming
back but was ranked only 33rd in the country last year, allowing
an average of 333.4 yards per game. Chavis's new attacking
scheme will be built around middle linebacker Tyrone Hines. The
particular target for this unit is Florida. "That's who
everybody in the league is chasing,'' says Fulmer.
Nothing complex about that.
10. NOTRE DAME
Take away Ron Powlus's halo and hype, and what's left? Ron
Powlus, that's what, but that should be plenty. Powlus was
practically beatified before he ever took a snap at Notre Dame.
Then he got beaten up, stripped of his sainthood and reduced to
Visions of multiple Heisman Trophies and national-championship
rings no longer dance before his eyes. A junior, Powlus is a
much toughened player and, mercifully, one less burdened by
unrealistic expectations. Powlus and his supporting cast have
learned that nothing comes automatically. In fact, the rude
awakening they received last fall in the form of a 6-5-1 season,
Notre Dame's worst since 1986, may make them better in the end.
Powlus didn't figure on losing five games in his career in South
Bend. The expectations that accompanied him out of Berwick,
Pa.--ESPN analyst Beano Cook predicted that he would win the
Heisman twice--diminished after he and the Irish encountered one
problem after another last year. Injuries left Powlus without
a veteran to turn to in the backfield and with a porous, ever-
changing offensive line. He was sacked 25 times.
The experience helped Powlus become a more mature and more
consistent player. He logged 277 minutes on the field in '94,
more than any other member of the offense. That answered
questions about his durability that had lingered since his
freshman year, when he sat out seven weeks with a broken right
collarbone. He also became the team's de facto leader and threw
for a school-record 19 touchdowns. "I want to be more of a
leader," Powlus says. "I can help put everyone on the same track."
This season Powlus will have a more settled team. The Irish have
found an offensive line they can count on--every player who
finished '94 as a starter returns, including fifth-year senior
guard Ryan Leahy. In the backfield Randy Kinder and Robert
Farmer are solid at tailback. At wideout Powlus has an elegant
target in senior Derrick Mayes, a possible No. 1 draft choice
next year. "We all know where we fit in now," Powlus says. "Last
year we all were trying to prove ourselves. We got away from
helping each other. We forgot to play the team game."
The Irish shuttled defensive players in and out of the lineup
last fall, and the lack of cohesion resulted in the opposition's
averaging 4.7 yards per play. This season defensive coordinator
Bob Davie will use fewer players. Says Davie, "Instead of
thinking, We need this guy to be a player and that guy to be a
player, we're now saying, 'Hey, we're going to make the circle
smaller and allow fewer guys in.'"
It would not be surprising if the Irish rebounded with a strong
season; the schedule is certainly in their favor. All three
military academies are sure W's, and the tough games are
winnable. The critical point of the season will come in the
fifth and sixth weeks, when Notre Dame travels to Washington and
Big games are no longer a worry for Powlus. "We've had the big
games and the tough losses," he says. "We need to put it all
After Oklahoma concluded a 6-6 season with a dismal 31-6 loss to
BYU in the Copper Bowl, 6'4", 288-pound defensive end Cedric
Jones, who was a junior, considered leaving Norman and entering
the NFL draft. "I thought I had a good chance to go pretty
high," says Jones, whose 14 sacks last year set a school record,
"but I wanted to come back and help this program."
He also wanted to check out coach Howard Schnellenberger, who
was hired to replace Gary Gibbs last December. Fol low ing the
Copper Bowl, Schnellenberger said, "The team I saw at the bowl
game was out of shape, unorganized and unmotivated. It was
clearly the lowest point in the great history of Oklahoma
That's Howard Hyperbole for you. Schnellenberger, who built
Miami into a national power and turned Louisville into a re
spectable team, doesn't mind stirring the pot. If you believe
the 61-year-old Schnellenberger, it was disgraceful that Gibbs's
team didn't go at least 9-3 last season. After watching junior
tailbacks Jerald (Thunder) Moore and James (Lightning) Allen in
spring practice, Schnel lenberger said the Sooners have "the
best group of running backs I've ever been around." Furthermore,
he says, "I expect this defense to be one of the best in the
Schnellenberger is just warming up. When he talks about redshirt
freshman quarterback Eric Moore, who will start because Garrick
McGee is still recovering from spinal meningitis, he says, "Now
to say that he will be another Bernie Kosar or Vinny Testaverde
is premature, but he has made as much progress as any freshman
quarterback I have ever worked with."
Schnellenberger wasn't just blustering this spring when he put
the Sooners through a 1950s-style Marine boot camp. He demanded
that the team lose a total of 1,000 pounds, he required
overweight players to report at 6 a.m. so that they could run
stadium steps, and he ordered ropes hung from the roof of
Oklahoma's indoor training facility so that players could climb
them to improve their upper-body strength. At the beginning of
spring practice only 10% could get to the ceiling. By the end
Schnellenberger was so pleased with all the pad popping during
spring drills that he approached a few members of the press and
said, "How'd you like all that damn hitting out there?" Jones,
for one, liked it just fine. In Schnellenberger's new 4-3
defense, Jones should be even more of a nuisance to quarterbacks
than in previous years.
Luckily for Schnellenberger, the schedule is conducive to major
improvement. After opening with what should be three easy wins,
the Sooners host Colorado. Should they win that game, they have
a shot at being unbeaten heading into their regular-season
finale, at Nebraska.
If Oklahoma comes close to that, Jones can head to the NFL
secure in the knowledge that he helped Schnellenberger put the
Boomer back in Sooner football.
--William F. Reed
This year another swarming, storming defense will rise out of
Alabama like the 1992 defense that virtually won the national
championship on its own. And there will be a new look on offense
as coach Gene Stallings finally lets the unit show some pizzazz.
Yes, Alabama could have been a contender. But the Tide will roll
nowhere on New Year's, and the team cannot vie for the national
championship because on Aug. 2 Alabama was nailed for several
violations of NCAA rules and given the first penalties in the
school's 102-year football history.
Before the NCAA sanctions--which include probation for three
years, banishment from the SEC championship game and all bowl
games this season and the loss of 30 football scholarships in
'96, '97 and '98--the questions for Tide fans were typically
sweet (Just how magnificent would this year's defense be?),
typically eager (How seriously would the Tide battle for another
national title?) and typically impatient (Would the offense
finally pull its own weight?).
The answers were promising. Fifth-year senior quarterback Brian
Burgdorf has nothing but praise for the defense, and he knows
something about the subject: Burgdorf was the backup quarterback
in '92, and in practice he took more snaps than anyone against
that year's smothering defensive unit. "It's kind of scary to
compare anything to the best defense maybe ever in college
football," says Burgdorf. "But I definitely think our defensive
line this year can be just as good. Our defensive backs are just
as talented. Our linebackers are probably better and faster. And
I think our offense is better than in '92."
The Tide's three tight ends--sophomore Rod Rutledge (6'4", 243
pounds), senior Tony Johnson (6'5", 256) and junior Patrick Hape
(6'4", 239)--are big and fast, and they can catch. Giving three
good tight ends to Alabama's renowned offensive coordinator
Homer Smith is like giving three queens to Bobby Fischer.
Stallings, a defensive specialist, had already decided to give
Smith more control over the offense in hopes of scoring more
points on the field and therefore with the pollsters. But that
won't matter because this season an unfamiliar question rings in
the ears of the still shocked, still indignant Alabama folk. Can
this year's team do what no other Tide squad has had to do: play
and win for pride alone?
What next? There wasn't a day, it seemed, that coach Butch Davis
didn't walk into the home or high school of a recruit only to be
asked, "Your team's going to get the death penalty, isn't it?
Miami is going to become another SMU, right?" During the summer,
junior defensive end Kenny Holmes would return home to Vero
Beach, Fla., where his friends would gleefully mock, "Florida
State and Florida have passed by y'all." One buddy dropped him a
copy of a magazine that ranked the Hurricanes No. 20 in its
preseason poll. "Number 20?" says Holmes now. "They might as
well have told us we belong in Divi sion II. Where's the respect?"
No school has been louder or more brazen in victory than Miami,
which won four national titles be tween 1983 and '91 but has
lost its last three bowl games. Conversely, no program's decline
has offered greater cause for celebration. Nation wide. Heck,
after this past off-season, you could've penalized the entire
country for excessive taunting of Miami. "We've lost," says
Hurricane center K.C. Jones. "And when you lose, the old Miami
image, the dancing, the trash talking, doesn't work. It's time
for a new image."
Davis, who replaced Dennis Erickson as coach on Jan. 24, has
vowed to clean up his team's antics. In other words, no more
doing the lambada after a three-yard run. But larger,
off-the-field concerns linger. Already facing NCAA sanctions for
Pell Grant fraud and the Luther Campbell pay-for-big-plays
scandal, Miami was confronted with allegations last spring that
Erickson had hidden the results of several drug tests
administered to Hurricane players. The NCAA will probably not
decide the program's fate until late fall.
On the field, however, the whiff of decline has been more
subtle. At quarterback, popular senior Ryan Collins will likely
be the starter, though he'll face a challenge from sophomore
Ryan Clement and redshirt freshman Scott Covington. And the
defense is young in the secondary and on the line.
Still, there are encouraging signs. The offense seems
reinvigorated under Davis's two-back set. And receivers Jammi
German and Yatil Green should provide the big-play threat that
has been conspicuously absent of late. "Things have changed,"
Other things, though, have not. That unmistakable Miami defiance
remains. "Two off years don't kill a mystique," says linebacker
Ray Lewis. "Everybody still envies Miami."
Defiance has even spawned bold talk of a run at the national
title--this year. Fat chance, but if Miami beats UCLA on the road
to open the season, and Florida State develops its usual
Hurricane-induced case of vertigo on Oct. 7 in Tallahassee,
well.... This much is clear: It's still Miami against the world.
Tshimanga Biakabutuka was 16 and resting on the sidelines at a
soccer game in Montreal when a phys-ed teacher asked if he
wanted to try out for the football team that Biakabutuka's high
school was forming. "What? A lot of guys running into each other
like fools?" Biakabutuka recalls responding in French. "I don't
want to play that."
"You scared?" asked the teacher. "You think you're not man
enough to play?"
That would have angered many adolescent males, but not
Biakabutuka, who is black and fought skinheads from time to time
just to get to and from his predominantly white school in
Montreal. Since immigrating to Canada from Zaire with his
parents and 10 siblings when he was six, Biakabutuka had been
taught by his father, Mulenga-Wa, that "nothing matters until
the guy in front of you proves that he is stronger than you."
Tshimanga smiled at the teacher and said, "I'll be there."
The first day, recalls Biakabutuka, "we practiced for five hours
in the heat. It was hard, but I was doing good--just running all
over the place. So I just kept on going and fell in love with
In 1992 his high school football coach brought him to Ann Arbor
for Michigan's summer camp. The Wolverines' offensive backfield
coach, Fred Jackson (now their offensive coordinator), was
impressed with what he saw. "You wouldn't believe what he could
do with his feet, the ability to change direction at high speed
with very few steps," says Jackson. "And the ability to go east
and west without having to chop his feet. Tshimanga can shake
his shoulders and get his feet underneath his body as quick as
anybody I've ever seen."
Last year, as Tyrone Wheatley's backup, Biakabutuka rushed for
783 yards, including four 100-yard games. He also scored seven
touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. He got a reputation
as a slithering finesse runner, which he doesn't like. "I'm a
tough runner," he says. "I don't think people always see that,
be cause I'm only 6'1", 210. Most of the time I try to go around
people. But when I've got no choice, I'm going to punish
The rest of the Wolverine offense appears capable of dishing out
punishment, too. First-year coach Lloyd Carr, promoted from
defensive coordinator to replace Gary Moeller, who was forced to
resign in the off-season, has enough diverse weaponry to keep
the pressure off redshirt freshman quarterback Scott Dreisbach.
On defense an already strong front will get even more help from
speedy redshirt freshman tackle Juaquin Feazell. But the
secondary, which gave up 15 passes of 30 or more yards last
year, lost its best cover man, Ty Law. Whether Michigan returns
to the Rose Bowl after a two-year absence may depend largely on
how well the secondary develops.
That and how often Biakabutuka's nimble feet take him north and
south to paydirt.
15. N. C. STATE
North Carolina State needs a high-profile player who can bring
it the sort of national attention that, say, Marshall Faulk
brought San Diego State a couple of years ago. The Wolfpack has
gone to a bowl in each of the last seven seasons, an achievement
only eight teams can match. Nonetheless, N.C. State's success
has gone virtually unnoticed outside the ACC because it hasn't
had a player with the charisma and talent to grab the press and
shake it. "We've won without having a Heisman-type player or
even an ACC Player of the Year type," says coach Mike O'Cain,
himself a bland sort. "We've just played very good team football."
Things shouldn't be any different this season. "We're not as
experienced as we were last year," O'Cain says, "but we have
talent at every position." But, alas, still no cover boy. The
closest the Wolfpack comes to an attention-getting story is the
saga of the Redmond brothers, guard Jonathan and center Kenneth.
As a high school senior, Jonathan was the more highly regarded
prospect, but he wouldn't consider a school unless it agreed to
give his brother a scholarship too.
"Kenneth was smallish and not looked upon as a Division I
prospect," O'Cain says. "But he's worked hard and become a good
player for us. They're good ol' country boys who enjoy playing
So is senior quarterback Terry Harvey, one of the best two-sport
athletes in N.C. State history. Although he's fifth all time in
Wolfpack passing yardage, Harvey is even more impressive
throwing a baseball. He has the school records for career wins
and strikeouts, and he spent last summer pitching for the
Cleveland Indians' Class A team in Watertown, N.Y.
As befits a team that has a pitcher at quarterback, the Wolfpack
will be strong up the middle. Besides Harvey and the Redmond
brothers, the offense retains 6'3", 282-pound guard Steve Keim,
multidimensional fullback Rod Brown and tailback Tremayne
Stephens, who averaged 6.3 yards per carry as a true freshman
last season. Their presence should guarantee that N.C. State
will again be Team Vanilla--effective but not electrifying.
It seems the only way this team will get recognition is to pull
off a huge upset. "We haven't gotten the attention we would
like," O'Cain says. "That's why we have Alabama on the schedule
this year. If we win that game or beat Florida State, we'll get
"I gotta tell ya," says Husky coach Jim Lambright, "it feels
like we're finally out of jail."
Out of the Pac-10 doghouse is more like it. Conference
sanctions, brought about because boosters gave loans and summer
jobs to players, precluded bowl appearances and limited
scholarships the past two years. Back-to-back 7-4 seasons were
fashioned out of grit and pride, but Washington went to three
straight Rose Bowls (from 1991 to '93), and no one around
Seattle was satisfied with the recent moral victories. The
sanctions have left the Huskies lacking depth but overflowing
"There have been some tough times around here, but now we're
ready to reassert our dominance," says safety Lawyer Milloy.
"The last two years UCLA and Oregon were just baby-sitting our
spot in the Rose Bowl."
Milloy, the only sophomore to be named to the All-Pac 10 first
team last year, is a big, swift hitter who made a team-high 106
tackles in '94. "I know it's a good thump," says Milloy, "when I
hear 'em let out a little squeal." This season he hopes to
improve his interception total; last fall he had only one.
Chasing down fly balls shouldn't be a problem. The multitalented
Milloy is the starting centerfielder for the Husky baseball team
and was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round of June's
The rest of the defense, led by inside linebacker Ink Aleaga,
will be solid. In addition to clogging up the middle against the
run and getting after the quarterback, Aleaga is responsible for
calling audibles, a comical notion considering that he is the
most reticent of all the Huskies. "Up till now," says cornerback
Reggie Resur, "Ink has let his shoulder pads do all his talking."
The offense, which has been run-oriented the last three seasons,
will live or die with the pass. Lambright has installed a
shotgun attack and a multitude of three- and four-receiver sets.
That's good news for senior quarterback Damon Huard, who had a
brilliant spring but has had confidence problems. "I know the
team is counting on me," he says, "and I'm going to do the job."
Fullback Richard Thomas will make Huard's job easier. A 5'9",
220-pound ball of muscle, Thomas spent most of his career
blasting open holes for tailback Napoleon Kaufman, now an
Oakland Raider. But Thomas is a reliable receiver and a
surprisingly nimble runner, and he will see the ball plenty this
That is, if he can work football into his schedule. Having
already graduated with a degree in sociology, he is working
toward another degree in history. Thomas is also married and the
proud father of a 22-month-old girl. "Keeping my focus can be a
challenge," he says. "It's not like I'm daydreaming about
grocery shopping on the football field, but sometimes I can't
help it because my wife is forever calling my pager to bring
home a dozen eggs."
Bear down, Richard. Surely Mrs. Thomas would enjoy some roses.
17. COLORADO STATE
On the sports world's continuum of ignominy, being a Colorado
State Ram has traditionally meant residing somewhere between the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Bad News Bears. Current Colorado
State players bear witness:
"We looked forward to playing road games because if we were
going to get booed, at least it was by someone else's fans,"
says free safety Greg Myers.
"We went to BYU, and everywhere you looked, it said,
CONGRATULATIONS LAVELL EDWARDS ON YOUR 200TH WIN--and this was
before the game, when he only had 199," says fullback E.J. Watson.
"I remember one time we were getting off the bus at LSU," says
senior cornerback Ray Jackson, "and all of these little kids
were giving us the finger, and it made me kind of sad, because
it just showed how much those fans cared about their team."
But a funny thing is happening in Fort Collins-Colorado State is
threatening to become a football power. Last year the Rams won a
school-record 10 games and grabbed their first WAC championship.
What's more, they have held on to enough firepower to be a force
again this fall.
The man behind the change in fortunes is third-year coach Sonny
Lubick. On five occasions last season Lubick preached to his
players that they were about to play the biggest game in school
history, and they bought it every time. "It's a cliche, but
Coach Lubick made us believe in ourselves," says linebacker
Garrett Sand. "He told us so many times that we could be a good
team that eventually we just gave in and accepted it."
Lubick is treated like the mayor around town, in part because he
withdrew his name from consideration for the coaching job at
Miami in January. It is common for Lubick to get a standing
ovation when he walks into a restaurant, which he says is
"downright embarrassing." His discomfort has other origins:
"Deep in my heart I'm thinking, What are these people going to
do to me if we're a bust this season?"
Lubick, usually an unbending optimist, is being too pessimistic.
There is uncertainty at quarterback, because the Rams must
replace Anthoney Hill. Both contenders, sophomore Moses Moreno
and J.C. transfer Daren Wilkinson, have looked solid if
unspectacular. Whoever gets the job will have two terrific
targets, tight end Justin Shull, a clutch pass catcher, and
explosive wideout Paul Turner.
The defense is led by Myers, the school's first first-team
All-America since 1978. Myers is also a second-team Academic
All-America. He is so dedicated to his premed major that he
skipped much of spring practice so he could take a class on
The only thing that dwarfs the Rams' talent is their optimism.
To hear the players talk, picking up where they left off last
season shouldn't be a problem. "I've heard the players, and I
don't know what they've been smoking," Lubick says. "We just
better remember what the hell got us here."
Says Jackson, "We know where we came from, and believe me, we
ain't goin' back."
18. BOSTON COLLEGE
He cannot promise them sunny days or straight A's, but Boston
College coach Dan Henning can assure recruits of one thing: more
prime-time television exposure than Bob Saget. As they shoot for
their fourth straight bowl berth, the Eagles will make at least
seven national TV appearances, which will place them second
among Division I programs, right behind another Catholic school
with gold helmets.
There is no mystery to the networks' affection for the Eagles,
who knocked off Kansas State in the Aloha Bowl last season to
finish 7-4-1. BC is a fine academic institution, but as yet no
one at the school has learned how to pad a schedule properly.
Don King would hate this team. It has 12 games on its '95
regular-season schedule and hardly a tomato can among them.
The fun starts Sunday when the Eagles take on Ohio State in the
Kickoff Classic. The rest of the schedule includes trips to
Michigan State, Syracuse and Notre Dame as well as home dates
with Michigan, West Virginia and Miami. "I don't know if we'll
ever win a national championship," says Henning, "but with our
schedule, we'll definitely give ourselves a chance."
The Eagles gave themselves no chance in the last two seasons,
dropping the first two games each year. Last season, after a
lackluster 21-9 win over Pitt, the 1-2 Eagles hosted Notre Dame
in a game that was billed as the Revenge of the Irish. BC had
traveled to South Bend the previous fall and stunned the
unbeaten Irish with a last-second field goal. Notre Dame said
the rematch would be different, and indeed, it was. This time
the Eagles manhandled the Irish 30-11, turning around their
season and turning the heads of high school stars around the
"To me, beating Notre Dame after losing the first two games was
like winning the Super Bowl," says Henning, who earned two Super
Bowl rings as an assistant with the Washington Redskins. "It was
just an outstanding benchmark for this team."
Now BC will have to deal with the loss of nine starters,
including defensive end Mike Mamula, one of the most dominating
players in the school's history. With a year of eligibility
left, Mamula ignored pleas to stay at BC and knocked them dead
at the NFL scouting combines. He was selected by the Eagles of
Philadelphia with the seventh pick in the draft. Mamula had 13
sacks last fall, but at BC they churn out defensive linemen and
linebackers the way Miami cranks out quarterbacks.
BC won't have to worry about breaking in a quarterback. Junior
Mark Hartsell has yet to show the poise of his predecessors Doug
Flutie and Glenn Foley, but he has the size (6'5", 218 pounds)
and arm strength to become something special. "You compare his
first year to Flutie's or Foley's," says Henning, "and this kid
was better." Hartsell, who threw for 1,864 yards and 13
touchdowns in '94, will enjoy the protection of eight returning
lettermen on the offensive line, including All-America candidate
Pete Kendall, a 6'5", 287-pound tackle.
As a team, the Eagles have a simple goal this season: "Get
faster," says Henning. Last season, while they hit as hard as
their Big East rival Miami did, they were embarrassed when the
game came down to quickness and speed, and the Hurricanes danced
away with a 23-7 win. Of the incoming players, 11 are at the
skill positions, and Henning hopes that at least a couple have
"that athletic arrogance" that a freshman needs to crack the
lineup at this level.
In fact, the entire team may need a little arrogance to survive
the next 12 games and live to play a 13th.
On a visit in June to central New York State, where his son,
Rich, was pitching for an independent minor league baseball
team, Arizona coach Dick Tomey took a side trip to the Baseball
Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. "I was like a kid in a candy
store," says the 57-year-old Tomey, which is no surprise because
he still plays baseball in the Tucson City League with players
half his age. At the Hall of Fame, at a booth that measures the
velocity of pitches, Tomey threw baseballs for 20 minutes,
until he clocked the fastest pitch ever--64 mph--for a person his
All this makes Tomey sound like a stubborn man with something to
prove, and it's an apt description. Apt for Tomey's team, too. A
year ago SI picked Arizona to win the national championship, and
most other prognosticators thought the Wildcats would finish in
the Top 10 and play in their first Rose Bowl. Instead, they lost
to Colorado State early, to Utah in the Freedom Bowl late and to
Oregon and USC in between. Arizona wound up 8-4.
The Wildcats never adjusted to the role of being the hunted. "A
lot of us are unrecruited guys who never got credit for
anything," says senior All-America defensive end Tedy Bruschi.
"All of a sudden we wake up one day last year and everybody
says, 'You're top dog. How are you going to handle it?' Looking
back, not very well."
The season wasn't entirely a disaster. The Wildcats' 6-2 Pac-10
record matched their conference best, and had they reversed the
10-9 loss at Oregon, they would have gone to Pasadena.
Nonetheless, the sudden vulnerability of the Desert Swarm
defense, which baffled and intimidated Pac-10 teams the three
previous years, was a major source of concern around Tucson. Ari
zona remained tough against the run (second in the nation), but
gave up an average of 220 yards a game in the air.
The falloff was partly due to league opponents' having learned
the oddball tendencies of the Wildcats' double eagle-flex
defense. "Sure, they understand it better now," says Tomey. "But
we understand it better, too." Expect only minor changes in how
the unit operates. "Good defense still beats good offense," says
Heading the defense once again will be Bruschi, the 6'1",
245-pound Tasmanian devil who has 51-1/2 tackles for losses,
including 37-1/2 sacks, in three years. Constant talk that he is
too small to play in the NFL has obscured his brilliant college
career. "I've never heard another player get asked so much about
his weight,'' says Bruschi.
He bulked up to 255 pounds in the off-season only to find that
he was slowed by the extra weight. This year he's back to his
old playing weight, a sure headache for offensive coordinators.
Most often he'll be up front with junior tackle Joe Sala ve'a
and senior nosetackle Chuck Osborne. No team has a better front
Senior strong safety Brandon Sanders, the 5'10", 177-pound
big-hit specialist, anchors a secondary that was burned for 13
touchdowns last year. He's duly embarrassed. "The wheels came
off, I don't know why," Sanders says. "But I do know we'll be
much better." Senior quarterback Dan White, who completed 57% of
his passes in '94, will be expected to do what Tomey's
quarterbacks are always expected to do: Play it safe and not
lose games. He will work with a rebuilt offensive line.
The Wildcats' most useful weapon may be the perception that they
blew their chance last season. "People either slap you in the
face or pat you on the back," says Bruschi. "I don't like being
slapped, but I really don't like being patted on the back."
That won't be a problem this year--at least until the Wildcats
start winning games.
Orangebloods are the best or, depending on your point of view,
the worst kind of Texas football fans. They yearn for the good
ol' days when Darrell Royal was striding the sidelines in Austin
and the Longhorns could have listed the Cotton Bowl as their
permanent New Year's Day address. Orangebloods are tired of the
mediocrity that has plagued the Longhorns recently, and they
have let coach John Mackovic know that they expect Texas to
close out the last year of the Southwest Conference by hooking
'em one more time, for auld lang syne, in 1995.
For the moment, Mackovic, the former Kansas City Chief coach
who's 19-14-1 in three seasons at Texas, has the Orange bloods'
support. However, if Texas gets blown out by Notre Dame on Sept.
23 or loses to Oklahoma on Oct. 14 or gets barbecued by somebody
in the SWC, all bets are off. After all, isn't sophomore
quarterback James Brown the next Bobby Layne? Shouldn't the
defense, which was hit hard by injuries last fall, be vastly
improved? After spring practice Mackovic told the Orange bloods
what they wanted to hear: "This was the best spring we've had.
I'm excited about every part of this team."
The most exciting part of the team might be the 6-foot,
190-pound Brown, who spearheaded the Longhorns' season-ending
surge. He was 4-0 as a starter and was named conference Player
of the Week for his performance in each of the three regular-
season games he started after replacing Shea Morenz. Brown, who
completed 69% of his passes, also brought a new dimension to the
Texas attack with his scrambling. "There has to be a catalyst
out there, and James has been a catalyst," says Mackovic.
On defense, All-SWC tackle Tony Brackens, a part-time rodeo
cowboy who has participated in team-roping competitions, and
cornerback Bryant Westbrook, who held Colorado All-America re
ceiver Michael Westbrook to one reception in their head-to-head
battle last season, will be the foundation of a group that needs
to prove it's no longer a liability. In the spring game the
defense, which finished 55th in the nation a year ago, dominated
the offense. That didn't displease the coaching staff. "We want
to make people look bad," says linebacker Robert Reed.
What they don't want is to make Mackovic look bad. Everybody
knows the Longhorns are on unofficial probation with the
Orangebloods, even if the coach won't admit it. "We want people
to know our program has survived," Mackovic says. "We are alive
and well. They have kicked us every way we can be kicked. We
have taken every blow that could be passed. But we are still
alive, and we are going to have success."
21. KANSAS STATE
The folks who put together the media guide at Kansas State might
have overstated the team's metamorphosis just a tad when they
wrote this sentence: "The remarkable turnaround ... is the kind
of stuff film makers dream about. It's David conquering Goliath,
Washington's crossing of the Delaware and D-Day all rolled into
one hard-working, heart-warming script." Still, it's hard to
blame a program that has enjoyed the most remarkable turnaround
in college football history for engaging in a bit of hyperbole.
Though the news out of Manhattan, Kans., seems far-fetched, it
is all true. The toad really did turn into a prince. For those
not familiar with the miserable past of K-State football, here's
a recap. Kansas State was the first team in history to lose 500
games and had gone nearly 800 days without a win when Bill
Snyder, the offensive coordinator at Iowa, took over before the
1989 season. "About 100 years of K-State football was not an
attractive sight," says Snyder.
As the playwright of the "heart-warming script," Snyder has
added these cuddly scenes: The Wildcats have already won more
games in the 1990s (35) than they did in the '80s (22). They
have had 12 All-Americas in the past six years. Their 18 wins
since '93 are a school record for a two-year period. They have
gone to a bowl in each of the last two seasons. The list goes
on. "With a top-20 ranking the last couple of years," says
Snyder, "there's the national belief that this season we have
Indeed. "In high school I had never even heard of K-State," says
wide receiver Mitch Running, who's from Decorah, Iowa. "My mom
called Coach and got me in." Running walked on in 1991, and the
following year he earned a scholarship. This season he is a team
captain. "Things have changed," says Running. "The guys that
were starting then could barely make our second team now."
Running, who caught 31 passes for 441 yards and two touchdowns
last fall, will lead an offense that has seven starters
returning. Matt Miller, a 1993 transfer from Texas A&M who
backed up quarterback Chad May, finally gets his chance now that