A crowd of 30,400 people turned out in Little Rock last April to see the Arkansas Razorbacks play their spring practice game, which is about as many folks as had paid to see them in several regular-season Southwest Conference games the previous fall. One reason may have been that it was the last chance to observe Quarterback Joe Ferguson in action for only a dollar. Ferguson is something special, a tall (6'2"), serious perfectionist with a powerful arm that fires footballs as if they were darts. Last year Ferguson led his conference in total offense and passing yardage and this year will certainly be in the forefront of those hailed each week as Heisman Trophy candidates. "I'll never forget the first pass he threw to me when we were freshmen," says Ferguson's favorite target, senior Flanker Mike Reppond. "It went right through both my hands, hit me in the chest and knocked the wind out of me."
Reppond has since figured out how to hold Ferguson's projectiles. Last season he caught 56. Nor can Reppond be summarily double-teamed. He is ably supported by Wide Receivers Jim Hodge and Jack Ettinger.
Arkansas also has two excellent tailbacks to balance the passing and make both the two-back and the Wishbone formations function effectively. They are senior Jon Richardson, an elusive runner who was averaging more than 100 yards a game last year until he broke a leg in the fourth game, and Dickey Morton, a junior with sprinter's speed who replaced Richardson and led the club in rushing with 831 yards. No problems about the defense, either. Last year it mastered a new formation, the Tennessee 4-3-4, with surprising alacrity and this year all but two starters return.
Prospects as dynamic as these should cheer the heart of even the most morose head coach, but not that of Frank Broyles, starting his 15th season at Arkansas. What he craves now is a fullback who can crunch out short yardage up the middle, and the search is on. It may end with sophomore Marsh White, who is 6'2", weighs 220, gets off at the snap of the ball as if coming out of starting blocks, and who scored 10 touchdowns last year during the freshman team's five-game schedule. Or Broyles may settle on senior Mike Saint, who averaged five yards a carry in '71, scored eight touchdowns and was shifted to fullback for the last three games.
Barring the same rampant case of fumbleitis that seized them last fall (25 of 44 lost) the Razorbacks should encounter only two tough games this year. The first comes this weekend against USC, the next not until October 21st when they meet Texas in Austin. Win those two games and Arkansas should win them all, be headed for the Cotton Bowl and national glory.
The great Oklahoma land rush is not over yet. Halfbacks Greg Pruitt and Joe Wylie and Fullback Leon Crosswhite, who get to the front quicker than soonest, are back and better. Pruitt, a 5'9" consensus everything, skittered 1,665 yards last season, a Big Eight record. Wylie, who was expected to be even better than Pruitt before he was injured in the third game, went 984 yards in 1970 as a sophomore. Crosswhite averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a mainbolt of the attack. Together with the late lamented Jack Mildren, they outdid even the Sooner giants of 1956 in some areas, setting national records for most yards rushing, most first downs rushing and most total offense per game. The Sooners scored 55 points against Pitt, 48 against Texas, 45 against Colorado, 56 against Kansas, 58 against Oklahoma State, 75 against Kansas State and, in the Sugar Bowl, 40 against Auburn.
Anybody replacing Mildren is going to feel a lot like Andrew Johnson that April day in 1865, but Dave Robertson is a capable quarterback, good enough to plug straight into the supercharged OU offense without stalling it. '"The number-one thing I want is a quarterback who won't beat us," Coach Chuck Fairbanks says.
Up front will be a superior line from which only one man is lost. In a game last fall All-America Center Tom Brahaney kept his opponent from making more than a single play. Guard Ken Jones and Tackle Dean Unruh are graded almost as high. Ends Albert Chandler and John Carroll block tidily besides being scoring threats. National kicking-scoring leader as a sophomore with 53 PATs and nine field goals, the 6'5" Carroll doubles as a leaping, tackle-slipping wide receiver.