Basketball is a good way for football players to fight off flab and boredom in the off season, which is why Quarterback Jimmy Jones was playing on a pickup team last spring against alumnus O.J. Simpson. Jones' team fell behind 24-8, the story goes, but caught up and won, which prompted O. J. to think back and realize that young Mr. Jones had been on the winning side in game after game all afternoon. Jimmy Jones is nearly always on the winning side. With him calling signals the USC football team was undefeated last season (10-0-1). Same thing through his high school career in Harrisburg, Pa.
Despite Jimmy's aversion to losing, his 13 touchdown passes as a sophomore and his proven ability to scramble, Coach John McKay may use two quarterbacks, as he did in the national championship year of 1962 with Pete Beat hard and Bill Nelsen (both now pros). Jones' rival/partner is sophomore Mike Rae, and he must be good to run and pass in such company. "They don't differ very much," says McKay. "Both have good height, both weigh over 190, both can do about 4.7 in the 40-yard dash and both are good students. They just have to play."
USC lost eight men who were drafted by the pros, including a big part of the defensive line known as the Wild Bunch, but the entire offensive backfield returns, bolstered and challenged by what McKay says is "as good a freshman class as we've had since I've been at the university." Back are Tailback Clarence Davis, the sprinting shotputter who was the fifth leading rusher in the country last year, hard-blocking Fullback Charlie Evans (both being pushed by sophomores) and, perhaps the most talented of the lot, Flanker Bob Chandler, outstanding player in the Rose Bowl last New Year's Day.
Chandler came to USC as a quarterback and decathlon man, but McKay and his staff made him into a receiver, just as they did earlier with would-be throwers Hal Bedsole and Rod Sherman, two Trojan heroes who went on to the pros. Chandler very likely would have been a strong All-America candidate last season, but injuries forced him to miss four games and be less of a threat in others. He's healthy now.
So the Trojans will have the ability to score by various routes, but so will just about every other team in what figures to be an offense-minded season in the tough Pacific Eight. What is needed is some sort of defensive Bunch to match last year's record of 95.6 yards rushing given up per game. Three good men are back: Tackle Lawrence (Tody) Smith, Greg Slough, an ex-Army drill sergeant who is one of the nation's best linebackers, and End Charlie Weaver.
The defensive backfield appears to be USC's biggest problem. The only starter returning is All-Coast Cornerback Tyrone Hudson. Bill Jenkins, counted on to start, was killed last spring in an auto accident. But the sophomore class is promising, and McKay is well known for finding replacement talent in California's junior-college system.
"We've got as much enthusiasm and as much raw talent as we've ever had," he says. USC will need it, because not only does it end the season against old, nasty rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, but it begins it with new, nasty rivals Alabama and Nebraska, which, along with the Trojans, have had the best won-lost records in the U.S. over the last eight years. The opener is this week, a night game in unfriendly Birmingham. Says McKay, "We'll have 78,000 Southerners rooting against us—and they don't even know I'm from West Virginia!"