There are some people who think Tommy Casanova (see cover) was responsible for LSU's opening-game loss to Texas A&M last year. Casanova was hurt while playing on offense in the second quarter and was out of the game when the Aggies won in the last seconds with a pass-run into his defensive territory. There is one person who thinks Casanova was responsible for LSU's 3-0 loss to Notre Dame. "I blew it," says Casanova himself who, despite holding Tom Gatewood to four catches (22 yards), dropped a leaping pass interception just before the Irish kicked the winning field goal. But there are many more people who believe—with ample justification—that Tommy Casanova is the main reason LSU won its nine other games last year and that he deserves to be recognized as the best all-round college football player in the country.
As a sprinter on the LSU track team he has done several 9.7 hundreds, and last season he tied an NCAA record with punt-return touchdowns of 61 and 73 yards against Ole Miss. As a defender he intimidates opponents into playing away from his area and stops such great receivers as Gatewood and Auburn's Terry Beasley. Said one pro scout after watching Casanova during practice: "My wife could scout Tommy and put him down as a first-round draft choice."
Quiet, modest, tall, dark and handsome—Casanovian in all respects—Tommy is partially responsible for the Tigers having led the country in defense against rushing the last two years. Only partially, because he had considerable help from Ronnie Estay, a Cajun from Race-land, La., hard by Bayou Lafourche, who plays tackle as if it were a French invention.
It is well that Casanova and Estay are still around, for LSU, as always, will live and die on its defense. In 1970 the Tigers were 9-2 during the regular season largely because the team yielded only 8.7 points a game. Now, with the defense nearly depleted except for its two stars, Coach Charlie McClendon will be hard pressed against the likes of Colorado, Florida, Alabama and Notre Dame.
The offense, however, may be better. "I just hope we haven't hurt our running game by too much passing practice," says McClendon, referring to the work of Quarterbacks Bert Jones and Paul Lyons. Pressure by Notre Dame and later by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl loss showed Jones cannot run, but he has a Y.A. Tittle arm and the pleasure of throwing to Flanker Andy Hamilton, who has already broken Ken Kavanaugh's school pass-catching record. Lyons is more of the take-charge type. A whole flock of good running backs is available, led by Art Cantrelle, who was recently cleared of an assault charge after a barroom brawl near campus. It was Cantrelle's second brush with the law for assault, but in between punches he personally outgained nine of LSU's 11 regular-season opponents. If McClendon can keep Casanova out of the hospital and Cantrelle out of trouble, LSU will be sweet and tough once more.
The University of Texas empire fell apart on New Year's Day, 1971 A.D., when Notre Dame upset the Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. That ended Texas' 30-game winning streak and also opened the way, at the last minute, for Nebraska to grab the national championship. In spring practice Coach Darrell Royal spent a lot of time poking through the ruins, and what he found was not exactly discouraging. With some solid old critters such as Quarterback Eddie Phillips and Halfback Jim Bertelsen, and some new beef headed by Linebacker Glenn Gaspard, the Horns may be hooking 'em this fall with as much gusto as ever.
The case of Gaspard gives some indication of what kind of talent Texas has. Last year he was so impressive as a freshman fullback that coaches and writers were billing him as the next Woo Woo Worster. In spring drills, however, Royal discovered that he had an adequate fullback—Bobby Callison—so Gaspard was shifted to linebacker. Soon he was making such jarring tackles that Royal was moved to observe, "He's got a lot of those Tommy Nobis traits." As for Gaspard, he gained plenty of respect for the way Phillips runs Royal's Wishbone-T. "Why, shoot," said Gaspard, "he's so smooth that it's a thrill when you get to tackle him."
Phillips, red-haired and freckle-faced, is more than smooth. He is an elusive runner, an underrated passer (as he proved in the Cotton Bowl) and a natural leader. "Eddie is a lot more confident," says Bertelsen. "You could see it in the spring when he just took command." Bertelsen is called "Tugboat" by some of his teammates, but don't be deceived. In speed and striking power he is more like a destroyer. Royal considers Bertelsen the best running back in the country, and the coach also is high on Tackle Jerry Sisemore, "the best athlete we've had on the line of scrimmage since John Elliott."
More Texans than ever will have a chance to see the Long-horns play. The west side of Memorial Stadium has been double-decked, which will add 15,000 seats and increase the stadium's capacity to 81,500—largest in the Southwest. The team these fans will cheer could be very good or just mediocre, depending on how it fares in the season's first half. Right off, almost before you can say LBJ Library, the Longhorns play UCLA, Texas Tech, Oregon, Oklahoma and Arkansas, which is a schedule and a half right there.