The offensive line, despite a touch of green in the guards, will be quicker and will have one of the best blocking tight ends in the conference in John Beasley (6 feet 3, 220 pounds). Led by Dan Goich (6 feet 5, 230 pounds), another NFL future draft choice, the defensive line returns intact, backed up by two good players who were second-team linebackers last year and, except for junior Halfback Bobby Smith, a mediocre secondary.
"There are 54 sophomores and junior-college transfers on our 81-man squad," says Willsey. "I'd have to go farther and say we're green as grass. But this group has more potential to win than any in the last two years."
Although OREGON Coach Len Casanova has done wonders in the past with poor material, things look stark this year in Eugene. The Ducks lost 12 starters and were beaten by their alumni in the spring game. One of the few bright spots is at quarterback. Mike Brundage is a good passer, but if he falls down on the job, Tom Trovato, a better runner who shared signal-calling duties last season, can step in. End Steve Bunker caught 51 passes, nine for touchdowns.
The running game appears to be weak and partially depends on two sophomores, Halfback Steve Jones and Fullback Jim Evenson, whose special gifts have caused Casanova to switch to the I formation. The defensive line was wrecked by graduation, and four starters are gone from the offensive line. Jerry Richards, the best player from the freshman team, will be the "monster" back on defense.
Wyoming has a schedule advantage which may allow it to upset BYU in the WAC race. Four of the Cowboys' five league games will be played at home in Laramie. Also, the top six rushers, including All-WAC Tailback Jim Kiick, return and will be helped by sophomore Wingback Vic Washington (8.8 yards a carry with the undefeated freshman team). Both Kiick and Washington are from far-off New Jersey.
They will not travel much farther, however, unless Coach Lloyd Eaton comes up with some sort of offensive line to open holes. As it stands (or falls), it is woefully inexperienced with one senior, two juniors and one sophomore. The defensive secondary is equally callow. Brighter by far is the defensive line, which is experienced and tough, especially Middle Guard Jerry Durling, All-WAC. Jerry DePoyster is expert in most phases of kicking and led last year's 6-4 team in scoring.
Arizona, a poor 1-4 in the WAC last season, may execute a complete turnabout with a new emphasis on passing. Junior Quarterback Bob Matthews, who started his college ball at Santa Monica ( Calif.) City College, will do most of the throwing. His best targets—Split End Fritz Greenlee, Flanker Jim Greth and Halfback Paul Wargo, who is also a good runner—all played before at the Air Force Academy. Coach Jim LaRue has changed his offense to a pro-style set-T.
The Wildcats have six starters back in their offensive line, plus Air Force transfer Bill Nemeth at center, so Matthews should have plenty of time to look around for open receivers. The defensive line suffers because sophomores start at both tackles and at one linebacker spot. The defensive secondary should be stingy, and Woody King is expected to be one of the better safeties in the conference. If Arizona does well, Coach LaRue can look at the skies in the manner of John Wayne and murmur, "Thank goodness for the Air Force."
Across the hot sands and into the next state, NEW MEXICO is switching to two platoons. Most of the Lobo players last season had to go both ways, and there still is not much depth. The team will be better only in the unlikely event that sophomore Quarterback Rick Beitler continues to be as successful this fall as he was in the spring game when he threw 36- and 80-yard touchdown passes to JC transfer Sherman Seiders.
The entire right side of the offensive line graduated, but New Mexico's running game should still be strong with Fullback Carl Jackson, who scored 10 times last year, and Halfback Carl Bradford, a good receiver who was second-team All-WAC. The defensive line has a Roswell, N. Mex. native named Paul Smith and may not need much more. He was All-WAC as a sophomore and New Mexico's lineman of the year.