You can't tell the players in the Atlantic Coast Conference without a score-card, but then you can't tell the coaches, either. There are three new ones this year and a fourth, Paul Dietzel of South Carolina, packed his bags and took his whole team with him. New faces at Duke ( Mike McGee), North Carolina State ( Al Michaels) and Virginia (Don Lawrence) leave the entire coaching fraternity with only nine years of ACC experience.
All would do well to match the early success of Cal Stoll, who in two seasons at Wake Forest improved from 3-7 his first season to 6-5 and the conference title the next. Fourteen starters return, including eight on offense, but even more encouraging is a schedule that has replaced Nebraska, Tennessee and Houston with Davidson, Tulsa and William & Mary. With all-league Quarterback Larry Russell handing off to Fullback Larry Hopkins, who gained 984 yards last season, the Deacons look like winners.
Hopkins is just one of several fine running backs in the conference. Steve Jones set a school record at Duke last year with 854 yards despite missing two games. Maryland's Art Seymore topped that with 945 yards and Gary Helman gained 743 at Virginia. The chief offensive threat at Clemson, now that Tailback Ray Yauger has left, is Quarterback Tommy Kendrick, who holds most of the Tigers' passing marks.
The conference headquarters have been changed from Kansas City to Dallas but an even more notable move was Louisville's shift from the bottom to the top of the MVC rankings. The surprising Cardinals recorded an 8-3-1 season and the first conference title in the school's history. No one, though, is more aware of changes than Amos Martin, this year's captain. Last year Martin was an honorable mention All-MVC linebacker, but he will be an offensive guard this season. Says Coach Lee Corso, "I'm sure it's going to be harder for us to repeat as champions. Everybody will be gunning for us. We won't be able to sneak up on anybody."
It will be especially hard to sneak up on Tulsa. Hoot Gibson took a team that had been 1-9 the previous year and welded them into a 6-4 squad. The defense will be impressive but the offense is vulnerable. After a four-year record of 30-8-1 the (not-so) Mean Green of North Texas State plunged to a 3-8 season. "We will have someone to run up the field," says Coach Rod Rust. "They may be guards or tackles right now, but we'll have someone."
West Texas State, entering the conference for the first time, is also looking for backs. Before spring practice there were only five in the entire school, which should give Kicker Matias Garza, who scored 62 points last season, plenty of work. Memphis State, last year's favorite, was a disappointment at 6-4 and this year lacks a proven quarterback, while Drake, returning to the conference, rates as a dark horse. Wichita State, victim of a tragic plane crash, is starting the long road back.
Look out for an Indian uprising. Although William & Mary won the conference title last year, it had an overall 5-7 record, including a loss in the Tangerine Bowl. The team should be stronger, with 27 returning lettermen and good sophomores. Phil Mosser, the conference's outstanding player, who set single game and season rushing records, is the top returnee. His running mate, Todd Bushnell, with whom he totaled over 2,000 yards, is also back. The defense, especially the linebacking, is suspect, but the Tribe offense, with diminutive QB Steve Regan, should compensate.
Furman returns 32 lettermen and the 1970 defensive line is virtually intact. Among the experienced starters will be Running Back Steve Crislip, alltime school rushing leader with 871 yards. For the Richmond Spiders it will be a year of reweaving. East Carolina has three good running backs and three quarterbacks available but no depth in other positions. New Coach (and old pro) Sonny Randle will have to push his Pirates.