Those beleaguered Southwest Conference teams who have been choking on the Longhorns' dust for five years are about to drop so far behind they will have trouble seeing them. The very least expected of the nation's most successful team since 1968 is a sixth straight league title. The very most is a national championship. It little soothes opponents that the Longhorn freshmen finally lost a game last fall (their first since 1969) or that at least two other conference teams had better spring recruiting results. All those Owls, Aggies and Mustangs are still so much fodder. The only opponent who should seriously challenge Texas at all is rebuilding Oklahoma of the Big Eight. Such is the joy and good fortune of the Longhorns' schedule.
Veteran players will sustain Texas in 1973, returnees from a 10-1 team that plodded early but surprised Alabama 17-13 on New Year's Day. The No. 1 sustainer is Roosevelt Leaks, who can come at you six or eight straight times, as he so often did last year when Darrell Royal switched a few positions, told his halfbacks to stay out of the way and altered the blocking assignments. Everything came up Rosies as the 5'11", 210-pound fullback bettered 100 yards in five of his last seven games and gained 1,099 yards overall. The conference-leading figure was a record for a Longhorn sophomore and prompted many to call him the Southwest's best fullback ever. Royal indicates there may be more Roosevelt and less pure Wishbone again this year, especially if sophomore Quarterback Marty Akins is slow developing. "Without the elusive, dangerous breakaway type back," he says, "we're going to have to make a little bit of yardage each time we snap the ball."
The snapper is Bill Wyman, who with Guard Don Crosslin brings needed experience to an offensive line that lost Jerry Sisemore. There are more than a couple of beefy thumbs to plug the forward wall, however, and not even Akins' inexperience—he saw only a quarter's worth of action last season—is considered alarming. Royal believes Texas is "more solid offensively" than a year ago, when the Longhorns did not begin to dominate until the fourth quarter of the Arkansas game.
Texas' real strength remains its defense, where Linebacker Glen Gaspard and Tackle Doug English head eight returnees who allowed only eight touchdowns. Royal has twice wanted to play Gaspard at fullback, but now he calls him "the best player we've had who didn't make All-America."
USC might very well be the best team in the country in 1973—and still lose a game or two and fall from No. 1. The defending national champions must test their unbeaten streak of 17 games against Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma in the first three weeks, and Washington State, Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA later on. If the Trojans survive unscathed, John McKay should be bronzed for display in a Heritage Hall trophy case.
Although he admits that "the cupboard has run bare here and there," McKay is not poor-mouthing his potential. Despite the loss of four All-Americas, McKay feels "this team is capable of winning every game." A big reason would be junior Tailback Anthony Davis, who is not at all bashful while assessing his Heisman Trophy chances. "Maybe I'll win it," he says matter of factly. "I sure hope I don't screw up and blow everything."
No crisis could be greater, however, than the one Davis has already survived—a January automobile accident that injured his right knee and partially severed his left Achilles' tendon. "In the hospital," says Davis, "I thought about that little knee dance I do in the end zone after touchdowns. I worried about not being able to do it anymore. Then I thought that if I can't do that, I can't run anymore either. The accident helped me put things in perspective."
The well-recovered A.D. did not become a starter until Southern Cal's ninth game last year, but he still rushed for 1,191 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, including six against Notre Dame. This season, however, he will be without the excellent blocking of Fullback Sam Cunningham and an experienced offensive line that included Tight End Charles Young.