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Johnson modestly lets his superheroic legend talk. He led Athens High School to the Georgia state co-championship by running 67 yards for a touchdown with no time left in the half and moving the team 75 yards with two tackle-eligible passes during the game's last minute and a half, then passing for a two-point conversion.
Last year against Georgia Tech, Johnson Merriwelled up again: with 1:29 left he ran 22 yards, then passed for 18, nine, seven and 12, then handed off to Poulos for the winning touchdown with 14 seconds to spare. Last spring, switching sports, he hit the first collegiate pitch ever thrown to him for a ninth-inning, game-winning home run. Johnson, says Dooley, "is the most relaxed athlete I've ever seen. In fact sometimes I think he's too relaxed."
Senior James Ray is less relaxed than Johnson, because he doesn't get to start, but he is a picture-book passer who started in as a sophomore, filled in ably when Johnson was hurt last year and "has enough stuff to rise above human feelings" (i.e., envy), says Dooley. The Bulldogs' generally sound defense will be led by Leman L. (Buz) Rosenberg. Buz, also known as Super Frog because he jumps so high, was only 5'8" last year. Even so, he was able to run back punts for an NCAA-record 202 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State. Recently Dooley made the official announcement that Rosenberg actually had grown an inch. No telling what heights he can ascend to now.
Inside Heritage Hall, USC's giant-sized display case for the truckloads of bric-a-brac won since 1880, John McKay commutes between the athletic director's office in the north end and the football coach's office in the south end, boasting two desks as well as two hats. If he sometimes appears to be talking to himself as he rushes past Heisman statuettes, 50 NCAA championship trophies and other goodies, it is no doubt just Coach McKay giving Athletic Director McKay an oral progress report. One might suppose two McKays would be enough for any one school, but this season USC has a third, sophomore J.K. McKay, son of John. A wide receiver who is not very fast or big, he can't do much at all except shake loose and catch passes.
Young J.K. is part of what could be the best sophomore group in Trojan history. His high school batterymate, Pat Haden, who lived for a while with the McKay family, a move that must have been discouraging to rival recruiters, is a good enough passer and runner to share quarterback time with senior Mike Rae, the team's leading scorer last season. Tailback Allen Carter is "the fastest big man we've ever had," and Linebacker Richard Wood could be the best of all.
Yes, the Trojans are loaded again, anxious to redeem themselves after two disappointing 6-4-1 seasons and hoping to cram a few more baubles into Heritage Hall. The schedule is, as usual, brutal: Arkansas, fast improving Illinois, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Washington and Stanford. Getting through that minefield safely is unlikely, but USC does have the muscle to get to the Rose Bowl.
Rae and Haden will be passing to a flock of fine receivers headed by McKay, sprinter Edesel Garrison (who ruined Notre Dame last season) and Lynn Swann. Fullback Sam (Bam) Cunningham is back after knee surgery and Tailback Rod McNeill is supposedly recovered from a badly broken right hip. If he isn't, Carter and two other excellent prospects will be waiting to join Sam Bam in McKay's I formation. All starters but one return in the offensive line. "Very impressive," admitted McNeill, "but our defense will be young and the offense will have to win at least the first three or four games. That's what the coaches have told us."
That was indeed the coaching staffs opinion going into spring practice, but Linebacker Wood and several other sophomores proved themselves ready, and Defensive Tackle John Grant, a senior from Idaho, continued to show McKay that he's "one of the most consistent linemen I've had in my 12 years at USC." Midway through spring drills, McKay was so pleased that he said, "We've got a real hard-hitting team, and I think the tackling could be as good as we've ever had." And he wasn't just talking to his athletic director, either.