The possibility that he might become the first head football coach ever to be fired by Georgia Tech was not a pleasant one to contemplate. Yet after the 1969 season Bud Carson had to face facts: he had coached the once-proud Yellow Jackets to three straight 4-6 seasons and around Atlanta the philistines were yelling for his head. But Carson still is Tech's head coach and now nobody is complaining. Last fall his team compiled a record, the school's best since 1966 when Bobby Dodd's last team went 9-1 and then whipped Texas Tech 17-9 in the Sun Bowl.
This fall those close to Tech notice certain differences in Carson. Never a wisecracking Pepper Rodgers or a smooth Paul Dietzel in his relations with the press, Carson nevertheless seemed looser and happier, and he spends more time talking with reporters. "He smiles a lot more now than he did four years ago," said a member of the Tech P.R. staff. "It seems that he's finally gotten over the pressure of succeeding Dodd, of being only the fourth head coach we've ever had here."
It is not just the 1970 results that make the coach smile; his '71 prospects are as sweet as sorghum molasses. "I think we have turned the corner," says Carson, who still tends to fall back and punt when pressed on vital issues. "Our offense should be improved, and we feel we've still got our big-play defense." The key to the latter is a defensive end with the beautiful name of Smylie Gebhart. He has played every game for the last two years and he led last season's team in such things as dumping the passer. The defense could be very stingy, indeed, if Defensive Tackle Brad Bourne can escape injury. He came to Tech billed as a superstar, but has played only nine games in two years because of knee injuries.
The Yellow Jackets set a school record for total offense last season and now may have even more sting. Quarterback Eddie McAshan, the school's first black scholarship player, should be able to cut down last season's astronomical 21 interceptions. Even at that, he still passed for more yards—1,138—than any sophomore in the school's history. The team's other scholarship black, homegrown soph Greg Home, will provide power and speed at right halfback, and little Brent Cunningham (5'7", 170), called the "best running back in Tech history" by no less an authority than Dodd, is back for his senior year. Although he started two games at flanker and missed three others due to injury, Cunningham still gained a team-leading 741 yards last year. He reminds longtime Tech fans of Leon Hardeman, the "Mighty Mite" of the early 1950s.
The schedule is sprinkled throughout with toughies—South Carolina, Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia—but Tech plays eight of its 11 games on its new AstroTurf at Grant Field. With interest back at the pitch it was during the halcyon Dodd years—34,000 season tickets sold—it's no wonder that Carson's smile is growing wider all the time.
14 OHIO STATE
As ever, Woody Hayes remains the consummate maestro, blustering away in his shirtsleeves among all those scarlet and gray uniforms, gesturing, tearing up hats, smashing watches, stopping to explain the madness with a quote from a favorite general, then going back to work putting together another Ohio State football team. Rex Kern, John Brockington, Jack Tatum, Jim Stillwagon and the rest are scattered over the U.S. and Canada, fond memories. Lou McCullough, for eight years Woody's defensive coordinator, is lounging on the deep-cushioned couch of the athletic director's office at Iowa State. But McCullough departs with a warning to those who might be tempted to consider this Ohio State team a patsy after the passing of the Wunderkinder. "They'll be all right," McCullough says in his soft drawl. "You don't have any bad actors on that football team. There aren't any bums. Woody just wouldn't tolerate it." Which is why you should make a note of some unfamiliar names, ones like Galbos and Bledsoe, Lamka and DeLeone and Gradishar. They are part of Woody's new army and, in Woody's own terminology, he's lost a few battles but never a war.
Two familiar names are back, those of Halfback Tom Campana and Linebacker Stan White, veterans of Woody's battles and two of the only seven returning starters. "They were superathletes, there's no doubt about that," Campana says, thinking back to the Kern team. "I feel honored to have been able to play with them. But, even more, I'd like to win without them."
"It just puts more pressure on all of us," says White, who led the team in tackles last year while remaining at least somewhat anonymous. "Like for me, especially. Last year I had so many good guys around me, if I made a mistake I knew they'd cover up. They had to put two men on Stillwagon, which left a halfback on me. That's why I led the team in tackles. I think I'll see a few guards this year. And I'll like it. The more pressure I have the better it is."
Which should make Woody smile—briefly—for there will certainly be pressure enough for everyone. Much of it will fall on the biggest new name, Don Lamka, the rough-hewn senior quarterback Hayes has hand-picked to succeed Kern. "You can't wait around and be indecisive," Woody explains. "You find some kid who goes out there and grabs the team and does the job, well, he's your quarterback." That is just what Lamka did last spring when he switched back to his high school position after spending the last two years behind Tatum at linebacker. "It's just like the Turks in Korea," says Woody, referring, one gathers, to the problem of replacing departed quarterbacks. "They'd always have one spy in the Korean camp, and when the Koreans found him out and killed him, somehow another one'd pop up. There was always one."