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"He's happy at fullback," said Osborne. "I don't think he would want to return to back. Tony likes to hit people, and that's what our fullback does."
The replacement at I back will be either John O'Leary, who was impressive when he got to play, or Jeff Moran, who carried only 14 times in '73.
Actually, there might be a third runner in the Cornhusker backfield—Quarterback David Humm, the lefthander from Las Vegas who heretofore has been known as an exceptionally good passer but a man even more reluctant to run than his predecessor, Jerry Tagge. Last season Humm buzzed home 109 of 196 passes in the regular season for a 55.6 percentage and 12 touchdowns. He added five of 13 for 75 yards in the Cotton Bowl. But he carried only 41 times in the 12 games for a net gain of 16 yards—most of those "carries" were quarterback sneaks or sacks. Yet in the spring game, while not exactly looking like another Johnny Rodgers, he did gain 44 yards in six carries. One run was good for 28 yards.
"Dave has found himself as a runner," said Osborne. "You're always torn at how much to run your quarterback, but he'll run for us."
As usual, Nebraska is solid almost everywhere. Wingback Rich Bahe returns to run reverses and nab passes, and the rest of the club is loaded with talent—a lot of it from far-off California, which used to be Osborne's recruiting territory when he was an assistant to Bob Devaney. Split End Dave Shamblin, Offensive Tackle Mark Doak, Tight End Larry Mushinskie, Defensive Tackle Ron Pruitt and Safety Mark Heydorff all figure to start and all come from the Golden State, which has been prime mining country for the Big Eight for years.
"There is so little difference between 11-0 or 10-1 and 7-4 or 6-5 in the Big Eight," says Osborne. "We will be good, but I don't know whether we'll be the former or the latter."
Houston is flashy. The versatile Veer, abetted by the Astrodome rug, was responsible for a whopping 363 points last year, including the 47-7 destruction of Tulane in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl. Houston, 11 and I in '73, will dazzle in '74, of course, but the Cougars' principal strength may be the defensive line. One of the front four, Gerald Hill, has been moved to middle linebacker, and a pro scout who saw him last spring marveled, "Nobody should be able to be a down lineman for two years and then move to linebacker and play like he does." The current four are Larry Keller, 6'8" Mack Mitchell and two returning sophomore starters, Lee Canalito and 285-pound Wilson Whitley. All are exceptional athletes—"The only thing that could deter them would be fat heads," says Coach Bill Yeoman—but ex-basketball player Mitchell might have the most pro promise. He runs the 40 in 4.6, not bad for a 250-pounder. "That is fast," says Yeoman, "whether you're a runner, a receiver or a cornerback.
"Canalito and Whitley are the best pair of defensive tackles on any team I've ever coached. I wouldn't trade them for any two in the country. They are just great now and are going to be super."
Elsewhere the defense looks solid, with such standouts as Cornerback Robert Giblin (five interceptions in '73) and Linebacker Bubba Broussard.