One day last spring Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles was moaning that his ranks were fearfully depleted after successive seasons of 11-0, 10-1 and 8-2. "We're back with the pack," he was saying. "We're light again and will have to scramble for everything we get. You can't have a winner without a lot of standout seniors, and we only have six of them." And just who were the six? Broyles, who has a habit of getting fired up as he talks, began to identify them. "Well, there's Hartford Hamilton, who's the best defensive end we've had. There's David Cooper, our best nose guard ever. I think Ronny South will be our best passer. Steve Hoehn is certainly our best monster man. Ernest Ruple is probably the finest offensive tackle we've seen. And Tommy Trantham ought to help give us our best secondary. Hey, wait a minute! I think I've just talked us back into contention."
He didn't need to. Under Frank Broyles, Arkansas has always been in contention, and most likely will stay that way. The school is in the unique position of having the entire state behind it 12 months of the year, and especially in the fall. For no reason other than that they like Broyles and the Razorbacks, people are prone to holler. "Whoooo, pig, sooey!" on the main street of the largest city or smallest village. Thousands wear red vests and blazers and hats to the games. Ladies have been seen going into the stadium portals in either Fayetteville or Little Rock carrying tiny, live pigs outfitted in red sweaters. And every game is a sellout whether Arkansas is meeting its foe of foes, Texas, or one of Frank's favorite nonconference rivals, Tulsa or Oklahoma State.
When Broyles once was questioned as to why he didn't schedule tougher outside competition, he said quite honestly, "Seven Southwest Conference games is tough enough. Besides, nobody ever looks back on a 9-1 and wonders who you played."
But Arkansas need not apologize for its schedule as long as it can beat Texas—which it has done three years in a row. When Arkansas did it 14-13, it meant a national title for the Porkers in 1964. When it happened again, 27-24, on national TV in 1965, it knocked the Longhorns out of the No. 1 spot and sent them reeling to other defeats. Last year's 12-7 victory merely cost Texas the conference crown.
"I don't believe we've beaten Texas three in a row," says Broyles. "Nobody is that fortunate. Anyhow, it can't last."
It can't, but it might, particularly if fifth-year Quarterback Ronny South is what Broyles hopes he will be. South is a fine passer and excellent place-kicker. He backed up Fred Marshall in 1964 when Marshall was carrying the Razorbacks to the national title. He backed up Jon Brittenum in 1965 on a 10-1 team that almost repeated as No. 1. Then he sat out a year. "I didn't want to spend all three years as a reserve," says South. "Now, it's my turn."
The one real worry about South is that he may have become too rusty after the red-shirt year, especially since he also missed spring practice for military duty. Another worry is the receiving. Arkansas has no Lance Alworths or Bobby Crocketts stored away. One immediate remedy was to shift junior David Dickey from tailback to wingback. Dickey is a tough all-conference speedster who scored four touchdowns against Texas A&M last season.
But Broyles would not have moved Dickey if he didn't know something. What he knows is that sophomores Russell Cody and Mike Hendren can handle the tailback duties. Cody is being called " Arkansas' answer to Chris Gilbert," and Dickey is so impressed with Hendren that he describes him as a "combination Jim Lindsey, Harry Jones and me."
The backs will all run behind Ernest Ruple, who is 6'5" and 252 pounds of tackle—the only big man in Broyles' camp. Ruple is a relic of the glorious era, just ended, when Arkansas was both big and fast.
On defense it is normal for Arkansas to be trim, quick and brutal, and Broyles does not try to conceal the fact that this could be his best defensive team. With Hamilton, who is "all hands and feet," on the end and Hoehn at the roving linebacker position, it will be difficult to get wide on Arkansas. And helping Trantham in the secondary is Gary Adams, who was all-conference as a sophomore. Only a top thrower will be able to cope with those two.