Long Beach State, slumped to 5-6 last fall, its worst record in four years. A lode of junior college transfers and red-shirts could make things more tolerable but the schedule has the 49ers prospecting on the road in eight of their games. San Jose State lost to Fresno State last season, but it avenged the defeat by luring the Bulldogs' coach, Darryl Rogers. The Spartans were only 4-7 in 1972 and, if nothing else, Rogers promises a wide-roaming running game to complement the passing of Quarterback Craig Kimball. J. R. Boone is the new coach at Fresno State which has been elevated to university-division status.
Stopping the Normal School for the Territory of Arizona—Arizona State—will be abnormally difficult. One of those having a go at it will be Utah, whose Quarterback Don Van Galder was the conference offensive MVP with 1,425 yards and 15 touchdown passes. The streak pursuing many of his passes will be Steve Odom, a 9.4 sprinter who averaged 22.1 yards on 30 receptions and 24 yards on 41 kickoff returns. Brigham Young seemed like a sure thing last season—a sure thing for seventh or eighth place. But the Cougars tied Utah for second. For his magic act this time, Coach La Vell Edwards must uncover three defensive backs, pull some receivers out of a canyon and turn someone into a tailback. On hand will be Quarterback Dave Terry (51% accuracy last year), pass-stealing Cornerback Dave Atkinson and Defensive Tackle Paul Linford.
New Mexico Coach Rudy Feldman is as excited as a kid who has found the cookie jar. The reason: Don Woods of New Mexico Highlands led the NAIA in total offense and when that school dropped football, he was immediately eligible to play elsewhere. Because Woods is both a nimble runner and nifty passer, Feldman is pulling apart his Wishbone and putting together an offense he has labeled the Halfbone. Feldman also has Fullback Rich Diller, a two-year 4.9-yard rusher. Arizona has a new image: fresh out of a package are Coach Jim Young, the uniforms and the option-oriented offense. Young should age considerably, though he will delight in Linebacker Ransom Terrell and "T" Bell, a quick flanker.
Colorado State's Sark Arslanian was Armenian coach of the year in 1965 and 1969 and, sequentially, is due in 1973. At best, he is a long shot. He insists, "We put some new wrinkles in our offense which the kids picked up real well." That's nice. But the defense is still wrinkled from yielding 37.5 points a game. Those were euphemisms that new Texas-El Paso Coach Tommy Hudspeth uttered about his boys' "good attitude" and their willingness "to work, hustle and hit people." All he must do is replace his quarterback, his five leading running backs and plug up a defense that gave up 419 yards a game. Only two starters are back from Wyoming's offensive line, so Quarterback Steve Cockreham and Tailback Charlie Shaw will have to do a lot of ducking and scrambling.
West Texas State, Louisville and Drake shared first place last season, and chances are these three will scramble for the top again. West Texas returns a herd of rushers, its two leading passers and its five best receivers, and if the Buffaloes can bolster their defense they could be by themselves. In recent years the team has had some thumping runners—Mercury Morris, Duane Thomas and Rocky Thompson. But none combined the size and speed of Billy Pritchett, who is 6'4", 245 pounds and has 9.8 speed. Drake will be no cupcake, not with runners like Jerry Heston (2,647 yards and 44 touchdowns in three years) and Jim O'Connor (742 yards at a 4.7-yard clip last season). But to go all the way the Bulldogs will need improved passing. Having lost Howard Stevens, the only collegian to rush for 5,000 yards, is merely part of Louisville's woes. Almost all the receivers and backs are newcomers, and so is Coach T. W. Alley. But the offensive line is excellent, and the defense, built around superior Tackles Richard Bishop and Marty Smith, is sturdy.
Says Memphis State Coach Fred Pancoast, "Rebuild? As long as I'm head coach, I'll never use that word." Using that word he added, "A coach is not paid to rebuild. He is paid to build." Aiding him in his nonrebuilding are 39 lettermen, 16 of them starters. There will be crunching runs by Dornell Harris, Clifton Taylor and Dan Darby, and if David Fowler's tosses find waiting hands the Tigers could well nudge aside last year's top three. Adversity, it is felt at Wichita State, has helped mold a fine team and will make this the Golden Season. There is no denying the Shockers' progress—they were 6-5 last year after having been 3-8 and 0-9. Among the finest are Rick Dvorak, 235 pounds of walloping tackle, and Johnny Potts, who won four games last year with field goals.
New Mexico State will be led by Joe Pisarcik, who according to NCAA figures is the second leading passer returning to college. Last season his 182 completions netted 2,179 yards. Defensive Back Danny Colbert is Tulsa's pride, but unless the offense adds some zip there will be little joy. After losing five of six games last fall, Tulsa installed Athletic Director F. A. Dry as coach. Displaying the Dry Look, the Hurricanes won three of their final four outings, even handing Louisville its lone loss. Dry will be back, but it is likely this year's team may have a High and Dry Look. North Texas State will have the Fry Look, having hired former SMU Coach Hayden Fry to retool a 1-10 squad.