For this reason there is optimism at University Park again this fall. The Lions will present a solid, not-very-fancy offense led by Hufnagel, an adequate passer and better than average runner. However, the players who put a gleam in Paterno's eyes are Running Backs Lydell Mitchell and Franco Harris. Mitchell is the slinky type while Harris specializes in head-on collisions with tacklers. Both have the speed and moves to go all the way. The offensive line, headed by Tackle Dave Joyner, is capable of giving them the daylight they need.
While Penn State will do most of its attacking on the ground, Hufnagel can throw the ball well enough to make opposing cornerbacks wary and he has an abundance of targets, including Split End Scott Skarzynski and Bob Parsons, a 6'4�" former backup quarterback who was switched to tight end in the spring and was impressive as a receiver.
If all else fails, Penn State has still another weapon—JC transfer Alberto Vitiello, a left-footed soccer-style kicker. What makes him unusual, aside from his ability to kick long field goals, is that he was born in Naples, Italy. Since Alberto's arrival, Paterno has revived one of his old lines. "I didn't recruit Alberto because he's Italian," Joe jokes, "I got him because I'm Italian."
The defense, at least up front, could be a throwback to better times. Bruce Bannon at one end and Frank Ahrenhold and Jim Heller, the tackles, are not very big but they are quick and hard-hitting. They also can afford to take chances because they are backed up by a quartet of linebackers who, collectively, will form an impressive roadblock. Gary Gray and John Skorupan are back from last year and the other two spots in the 4-4-3 defense will be held down by Charlie Zapiec, who missed most of last season because of an appendectomy, and Doug Allen, a converted defensive tackle. The real worry is in the secondary, where all three starters will be newcomers. They could be vulnerable, especially early in the season.
Paterno thinks his team will be better than last year's and so do the 50,000 fans who months ago grabbed up all tickets to the five home games. Waiting at the end of the schedule is Tennessee, a monster. How well the Lions do in that game will be the truest measure of their bite.
When Bill Battle took over as head coach at Tennessee last fall some people around Knoxville wondered if he was the right man for the job. He was, after all, only 28, barely older than his players. Also, he seemed so mild-mannered, so, well, Boy Scoutish. Was he ready to handle a major college team?
Indeed he was. After an early-season loss to Auburn, the Volunteers—picked for mediocrity 9 last fall—won nine straight and then slugged Air Force in the Sugar Bowl 34-13. Most Knoxville fans felt that Battle was shortchanged in Coach-of-the-Year balloting. Small matter, really. He is young and has a lot of time left to accumulate honors normally associated with such SEC elders as Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan. Last season Battle beat Alabama (and his former coach Bryant) 24-0, and Florida (and his predecessor at Tennessee, Doug Dickey) 38-7. Those performances tended to demonstrate how much he had learned on the field from his old teachers, and Battle recently showed excellent retentive powers of some off-field habits of The Bear. Poor-mouthing, for instance. "We can be a good football team if a few things fall into place," says Battle of his 1971 Vols. In truth, it would take many things falling out of place for Tennessee to be bad this season.
To begin with, some opponents' minds may be psychologically blown during the pregame coin flip when Tennessee sends out the first black captain in SEC history, Linebacker (and Knoxville's own) Jackie Walker. With Ray Nettles and Jamie Rotella, Walker gives the Vols what may be the best linebacking corps in college. Surely it is the best at recovering from injury; all three are survivors of major knee surgery. Though Tennessee is on the small, sleek side up front defensively, this trio plus Bobby Majors promises to make the Vols as exciting when they do not have the ball as when they have it. Majors, a daring and spectacular free safety who also punts, led the nation with 10 pass interceptions last season and though he, too, is a knee man (he missed spring practice because of surgery) he is expected to be 100% when the season begins. Tennessee, it seems, has had more Majors than Catch-22. Bobby is the youngest and biggest of four brothers who have played major college football, three at Tennessee.
Offensively, the Vols' attack will be mostly on the ground, what with passer Bobby Scott having graduated and Dennis Chadwick, who runs well, moving in. Curt Watson, a keg-calved fullback, is set for his finest season after two years as an AU-SEC selection while sophomore Haskel Stanback is an open-field threat who, according to one observer, "broke every stick of furniture in the house" in the Tennessee spring game. Like Walker, Stan-back is black. "My election shows blacks can become involved," says the captain. "It shows we can become a part of leadership, and it also shows the kind of boys we have on this squad." No doubt Bill Battle will continue to show what kind of boy is coaching the squad, too.