The deterioration at SMU has been something of a mystery. Since 1962 dozens of highly prized athletes have arrived on campus in Dallas, but few of them have fulfilled their promise. There have been dropouts, fiunkouts, injuries and steady miseries, but Coach Hayden Fry thinks things are looking up. Quarterback Mac White is back, so is 9.3 Halfback John Roderick, who beat Navy in 1963. And sophomore Jim Hagle, who is 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, fast and punts 40 yards every time, is being called the nearest thing to Kyle Rote the Mustangs have had. Fry has also hired Chuck Curtis, Texas' most successful high school coach (three straight state championships) as an assistant. As Texas Tech Coach J. T. King says, "I know they were 1-9 last year, but you can't look at that personnel and believe they can do anything but be better." All they have to do is stay healthy and in school.
Texas A&M is still looking for another Bear Bryant, and Gene Stallings is the third man to try to fit that difficult mold. He may be close. At least he played for Bryant at A&M (in 1956, on the only championship team that the Aggies have had in 25 years) and coached for Bryant at Alabama, and has five photographs of Bryant on his office wall and a fat log book of everything Bryant has said during the last 12 years.
The big difference between Bryant and Stallings, however, is that this year Stallings does not have many football players. There is a fine linebacker, Joe Wellborn, and a red-shirt sophomore quarterback, Harry Led-better, but the general standard is low. Thus Stallings is starting out, as Bryant had to 11 years ago at A&M, by building a defense and a kicking game. He does have an end named Dude (McLean) and a fullback named Bubber (Collins), and no team with names like that can be all bad, or, as Bear would say, "Scared to butt you."
The only reason A&M rates ahead of RICE is because Jess Neely has no pictures of Bryant on his wall. The Owls have the best center in the league in Craig Christopher and two solid tackles in seniors Jim Vining and Harlon Dearing. Fullback Gene Walker and Halfback Chuck Latourette are reckless runners. But that's about it.
Independent HOUSTON should be better than half the teams in the Southwest Conference—maybe more. Coach Bill Yeoman has nine offensive starters back and 22 lettermen and, most important of all, sophomore Warren McVea (see box). The biggest problem is the schedule: Ole Miss, Miami, Florida State, Kentucky, Tennessee, among others. McVea will have to run awfully fast. TEXAS WESTERN hopes that some of the Dobbs family talent will rub off. The Miners have hired Bobby Dobbs, older brother of Glenn, who brought Tulsa back to prominence last season, as the new head coach. Dobbs instantly installed a pro-type offense, similar to Tulsa's, but, so far, he is without the kind of passer who makes that sort of machine work. If one develops, he will have more than adequate running help from Mark Yarbrough, 205 pounds and a 9.7 average last season, Walter Johnson, 200 pounds, and Dick Weeks, 217 pounds.
Out in the no man's land of the Lone Star, there is WEST TEXAS STATE. Coach Joe Kerbel's Buffaloes have experience and some transfers, but the accent will be on defense, where most of the team's strength is centered. Ted Wheeler and Dave Szymakowski are good receivers for anyone who can get the ball to them. NORTH TEXAS STATE, although it is located in the heart of the SWC, plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. Coach Odus Mitchell's hopes to better last year's 2-7-1 depend upon sophomore Quarterback Corkey Boland and two ex-junior-college backs—John Love and Tony Reese.