Iowa State Coach Clay Stapleton is happy with his team. He has more size, depth, talent and better sophomores than ever before, maybe even enough to get the Cyclones into the first division. In Ames, they are already calling Willie Muldrew, a vicious 220-pound sophomore tackle, Iowa State's "best lineman since 1892," and Stapleton describes Sam Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound end, as "the greatest young player I've ever had." They will both be in the Cyclones' defense.
But the one who may do the most for State is Tim Van Galder, a tall, slight passer who changed Stapleton's game last year. He completed 100 passes, mostly to Ends Eppie Barnes and George Maurer and Wingback Tom Busch, and they are all back. Van Galder works at his specialty. He and Dave Johnson, a basketball player, spent the summer playing catch all over Europe, and once Van Galder was even red-dogged by the polizia in Rome's St. Peter's Plaza.
At OKLAHOMA STATE, Coach Phil Cutchin would be happier if his team did not have to play Arkansas, Houston, Colorado and Missouri in its first four games. Also, it would help if he knew who his quarterback was going to be. Harry Cheatwood, red-shirt Bruce Scott and sophomore Mike Arnold all had a shot at it in the spring, and none of them exactly excited the coach. The Pokes will have to survive on their defense, and that has a substantial look with 228-pound Dennis Randall and 240-pound Harold Akin at the tackles.
There are so many new faces at KANSAS that Coach Jack Mitchell says, "I almost feel as if I was at another school." There were times last year when Mitchell must have wished he were somewhere else. His defense was as porous as one of those Brand X paper towels and his runners were so bad that a first down was a major event. Hopefully, the newcomers will change that.
All of those dawdling running backs have graduated, quit or been demoted, and in their place are some sound sophomores—Don Shanklin, Junior Riggins and Bill Esters. With them is Quarterback Bob Skahan, who Missouri's Devine calls the best back in the conference. Skahan is a superb passer, and he runs like a halfback.
Sophomores also have moved into the front lines to give the Jayhawkers a sterner look. The prize one is Keith Christensen, a 265-pound offensive tackle who can "move mountains," not to mention mere opposing linemen. "I kind of think we might win more games than last year," says Mitchell. "We'd better," he adds ominously.
Kansas State's preseason brochure starts out, "Wildcats all the way! Would you believe 7-3...6-4?" That is pretty big talk for a school that was 0-10 last year and is 8-51 the last six. But K-State has been optimistic since it gave Coach Doug Weaver, who wears the horns for that record, a new three-year contract. Weaver was so grateful that he went out and got four new assistants, eight junior college transfers and changed his offense to a more exciting wing T and I with split ends and flankers. He even tried to disguise his players by putting them into purple-and-white jerseys and gray pants. Net result: Wildcats, with little claws that scratch. Sophomore Bill Nossek at quarterback and rookie Dave Jones and transfer Charlie Sanford, a 9.5 hustler, in the backfield, are the best of the new ones.
The team to watch in the Mid-American Conference is TOLEDO. The Rockets, who fumbled around in the cellar for so long, have come fast under able Coach Frank Lauterbur. With only six starters missing from last year's 5-5 team, Toledo will be bigger, stronger and deeper up front, and the pass defense that led the nation in '65 is mostly intact. Lauterbur's I pro-set will have more zest, too, with Quarterback John Schneider and Split End Henry Burch for the passing game and Roland Moss, a 215-pound sophomore tailback who may be the one to set off the Rockets.
Kent State also has the favorites nervous. Coach Leo Strang, who likes a big, firm defense, has just that. Not many runners will escape his tackles, 261-pound Howie Tennebar and 255-pound Ernie Ames or Linebackers Bill Landis (235) and Bob Covington (230). But sophomores George Infante at quarterback and Joe Pledger at fullback have to come through to keep Kent's attack from being too thin.
The other MAC teams are not title-challenging types. MARSHALL has two fine runners, Tailback Mickey Jackson, who scored 16 touchdowns last year, and Fullback Andy Sacha, and two experienced lines. But Coach Charlie Snyder needs defensive backs and a quarterback for his slot T. WESTERN MICHIGAN and OHIO U. are rebuilding. At Western, Coach Bill Doolittle has only 10 players returning from a 6-2-1 season, and he has gone to the slot T to accommodate the skills of Quarterback Ron Siefert, who runs better than he passes. Ohio, 0-10 a year ago, has more to work with—23 lettermen—and Coach Bill Hess, long a devotee of Woody Hayes-style football, switched to the power I in the spring. He has not one but two backfields—one for power, one for speed—and Fullback Wash Lyons, over his toe troubles, will be in both of them. The Bobcats, however, need a good quarterback to run the show.