John Merritt, the esteemed football coach of Tennessee State, will again spend his season staying as close as possible to The Lord's Prayer, since doing this has insured State's football success for the last three years. Nothing could be more logical. The Lord's Prayer, so named for his universal efficacy, and otherwise known as Eldridge Dickey, is a quarterback who has completed 68% of his passes in three seasons. In 1966 his output was 106 completions in 210 attempts for 25 touchdowns. Most of the time he throws right-handed. But not always. "He is accurate up to 25 yards left-handed," says Merritt. No coach in full possession of his faculties is going to let something like that get very far out of his sight.
Only once since he enrolled as a freshman has Dickey been back home to Houston. "That boy eats Christmas dinner with me," says Merritt. He does. Every year.
Nor is Dickey the only miracle-worker on this team. TSU Defensive Tackles Claude Humphrey and Tommie Davis have missed a Christmas dinner or two with their coach, but that is not meant to play down their worth—Merritt cannot afford to feed them on his salary. Humphrey weighs a solid, steady, calorie-consuming 254 and Davis 287. " Humphrey is the best in the nation," his coach says happily. "He will be a No. 1 draft choice. As for Davis, he's the toughest football player I've ever coached."
Merritt's opinion should count for something. He is 33-5 at Tennessee State and has 27 former players in professional ranks.
With Ends Elbert Drungo (6'5", 251) and Thomas McCord (6'3", 221) and Middle Guard Ken Brady (6', 232), the defensive line looks solid, and the linebacking is capable. But there are problems in the secondary. Five of TSU's six best defensive backs graduated (all five went to pro camps; indeed, all 10 of the Tigers' departed letter-men got looks by the pros). However, James Marsalis, the best one, returns.
On offense, Running Backs Wayne Reese and Leroy Motton, although both are 9.7 at 100 yards, will be pressed by freshman John Mayes and the much-sought, much-tested refugee from the University of Tennessee's admissions office, Albert Davis. When passing, Quarterback Dickey will have his choice of three senior receivers—Tight End Leo Johnson, Split End John Robinson and Flanker Joe Cooper—and will be protected by a very experienced line. Unbeaten in 24 straight games, Tennessee State has as much strength as ever.
SAN DIEGO STATE
TSU's principal concern is that it plays San Diego Slate in the first game of the season. San Diego may not have a Lord's Prayer. It does, however, have a Moses, a Teddy Washington and a McKinley Dillingham. Scouts call Haven Moses—a lean, intelligent lad with great speed—about the best pass receiver in collegiate football. Moses last year caught 57 passes for 1,145 yards, an average of 20 yards per reception, and scored eight touchdowns. Fullback Washington is a savage blocker and runner, and the 185-pound Dillingham averaged more than nine and a half yards per carry in 1966 at Sequoia Junior College. Then there is Halfback Lloyd Edwards who, at 6'4" and 242 pounds, runs 50 yards in 5.6.
Up in front of these running backs the Aztecs have what intense, aggressive Coach Don Coryell calls his best offensive line ever. Tackles Steve Duich and Dave Ogas, 262-pound Center Curt Hansen and a matched pair of guards, Paul Daniels and Clark Wright, both 6' and 225 pounds, constitute the muscles in the middle.