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Mississippi plays more conference teams than any other member—seven, including Alabama. LSU, Tennessee and Georgia—which is a change from recent schedules. In addition, Johnny Vaught is without All-America Guard Stan Hindman, and Tailback Mike Dennis and Cornerback Bill Clay, both All-SEC. But everything considered, Vaught is more optimistic than one would expect. "We made a million mistakes in our early games last fall," he says, "but the sophs came around and we finished with a real good football team." Those sophomores Vaught likes are the 24 he carried on the traveling team, 23 of whom are now among his 34 returning lettermen.
Most of the experience is on defense, where seven letter winners return up front, six of them starters. Tackles Jim Urbanek and Dan Sartin, 240 pounds apiece, can hit and run as can Middle Guard Jimmy Keyes, who also kicks (six field goals, 19 of 20 conversions). Linebacker Lee Garner does so much that Vaught contends he's the best in the SEC. To Bruce Dillingham goes the task of filling Clay's lowcuts at cornerback.
Offensively, Mike Magee moves from weakside guard to replace Hindman, and junior lettermen Bobby Hendrix and Alan Bush, both 230 pounds, have inherited the tackles. Replacing Dennis will not be easy, but three candidates are Bobby Wade and Don Street, powerful when in shape, and sophomore Steve Hindman, Stan's brother. Quarterbacks Jody Graves and Bruce Newell are not in the Gibbs-Day-Griffing mold, but they will be adequate.
Bobby Dodd says last year's Yellow Jacket backfield was "the most exciting and fun to watch" that he's had in 21 years at GEORGIA TECH—and that includes a raft of backfields. Quarterback Kim King, Halfbacks Lenny Snow and Craig Baynham and Fullback Tommy Carlisle frisked the opposition for 2,848 yards and 222 points, and for the 52,000 who jam Grant Field for Tech home games that was fun to watch. Not so much fun, however, were the 3,341 yards the opposition drained in return payment from a woeful Jacket defense, which prompted changes in everything from coaches to players last spring. Four new coaches showed up on the practice field, and nothing like that has happened at Tech in years. The results remain to be seen, but Dodd—of all coaches—promises, "We'll be a lot tougher." Bud Carson, brought down from North Carolina to stop the parade into Tech's end zone, says: "I think you'll see more long gains made on Tech this year [wait a minute, Bud!], but I think you'll see more opposing runners thrown for big losses [that's better]."
The reason is a defense they call "Tech Wrecker," which closely resembles Michigan State's rover. But to help launch it some good offensive players like Giles Smith, Bill Myddelton and Carlisle will be wrecking instead of wreaking this fall.
With an attack built around King (112 completions for 11 touchdowns last year), Snow (597 yards rushing and five touchdowns) and Baynham (30 catches for 368 yards and 7 touchdowns), Tech will not miss the converted attackers. And, as usual, the Yellow Jackets have those hole cards (seven home games) guaranteeing them a record no worse than 6-4 and possibly as good as 8-2.
Though he's still looking for a quarterback like Thomas Ray, CLEMSON's Frank Howard appears to have everything he needs to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Among 30 returning lettermen are the Tigers' top four receivers and a big, experienced offensive line. Tackles Dave Burton and Wayne Mass go 240 pounds apiece, and Guards Harry Olszewski and Mike Macciolo are 232 and 220. Graduation bit into the defense, but there is still a lot of size around with tackles like 243-pound Floyd Rogers and Wilson Childers, 237.
Either Jimmy Addison or Tommy English will step in for Ray (1,165 yards in total offense in 1965), and Buddy Gore, a 6-foot 180-pounder who can run faster than anyone has in 10 years at Clemson, will take over for Hugh Mauldin, the tailback who led the ACC in rushing. Howard has a nonconference schedule that indicates almost sure defeats at the hands of Georgia Tech, Alabama and USC, but the team that wins the ACC will still have to beat Clemson.
Steve Spurrier is back at FLORIDA, where he ran and passed for 2,123 yards last year and came within 64 yards of Frankie Sinkwich's SEC record. Unfortunately, Spurrier and Larry Smith (see box page 60), the extraordinarily gifted sophomore runner, are about all that Florida can count on. Twenty-one lettermen, the majority of whom played three full seasons, have graduated and left Coach Ray Graves with what could well be his weakest team in six years at Gainesville. The schedule is less imposing than in former years but, in the face of the expected furious pass rushes, Spurrier will not have receivers in the class of Charles Casey either. Graves must refurbish the offensive line and defensive backfield and hope that Smith, who many believe may be the South's best back in years, will take some of the pressure off Spurrier. "But Steve," warns Graves, "is a great athlete who rises to the occasion and gets better under extreme pressure." At Florida the occasions should be many and the pressures adequately extreme. Expect the Gators to rise as high as one man can take them.