"Everybody's going to be after us," warns SUL ROSS STATE Coach Dave Slaughter—and why not? The Lobos won out in the extraordinarily proficient Lone Star Conference and went all the way to the NAIA semifinals last year. Slaughter knows Sul Ross will sorely miss Quarterback Luz Pedraza; so he will rely heavily on his team speed which, with Jacob Henry and Elliott Wright, is exceptional. Coach Ernest Hawkins says he has one of his finest teams at EAST TEXAS STATE, primarily because of a powderkeg backfield headed by Tailback Curtis Guyton, who could well be better than Sid Blanks, a conference star a few years ago. Jerry Reeder and Mike Kline are ready to go, as is Quarterback Jim Adams.
Southwest Texas will have speed and experience in the backfield with Jesse Perkins and Fred Frieling, but the Bobcats will be weak in linebackers and defensive backs. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN also must be reckoned with, while TEXAS A&I has, in the words of Coach Gil Steinke, "its biggest rebuilding job in years." With Randy Johnson gone to the Atlanta Falcons, that comes as no surprise. Halfback James ( Bear) Brown also graduated, and he was the LSC's leading rusher, so the Javelinas will try to regroup around Guard Carl Smith, Tackle Eugene Upshaw and Halfback Herb Pennick.
If it can get its offensive line rebuilt in time, SAM HOUSTON STATE will throw more, mostly with Quarterback Dennis Gann pitching to John Mathews. If not, Billy Arlen will run. The defense is outstanding, as usual. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, with End Ray Scott and Linebacker Ken Houston, will be respected.
Lamar Tech, which won its second straight Southland Conference championship last year, will go for No. 3 with Quarterback Phil Primm, and runners Darrell Johnson, Tom Smiley, Ken Montgomery and Lee Spears leading the way. ARKANSAS STATE lacks experience, and that means a lot will depend upon Safety Dick Ritchey and Guards Truman Moore and Bill Bergey.
Abilene Christian, 4-5 last year, hopes to improve with All-Conference Halfback Mike Love and Quarterback Jacky Roland doing the most work.
Ithaca ran riot over and through some of the best small-college teams in the East in 1965, rang up 204 points and was unbeaten in eight games. With 26 lettermen back and most of last year's best among them, the Bombers could wreak more havoc. In fact, Coach Dick Lyon cannot wait to see what Frank Slattery, an adept passer and field general, can do in place of Quarterback Jim Harris, last year's MVP. Slattery has a wealth of targets to shoot at, including Al Guenther and the team's leading scorer, Frank Fazio, both of whom run as well as they catch. A big, strong offensive line, led by Tackle Bob Burnham, should give Slattery the time and Bomber runners the holes they need. End Bob Congdon heads up a stiff defensive platoon. But Ithaca is in for three searching Saturdays with West Chester, Bridgeport and Cortland.
West Chester's Rams, the last team to defeat Ithaca (in 1964), have a small defensive line that capitalizes on exceptional quickness and pursuit. Brian Mulhearn and Ray Kurowski are sure, hard-hitting tacklers. Quarterback Jim Haynie is smart and throws well enough to complement perfectly the power smashes of Fullback Burt Nye.
Bridgeport was 3-6 last year, but the Purple Knights play as many good small colleges as any team in the East. One touchdown was the difference in losses to Ithaca, Southern Connecticut and Montclair State. If little (5 feet 3, 140 pounds) Paul Mandeville, who sneaks by tacklers before they can see him, has another fine year, the Knights may turn the tables on the others.