Quarterback Richard Ritchie is one of nine starters returning to the offense. He accounted for 1,956 yards last year as A&I averaged 454 yards and 33.5 points per game. Although Fullback Don Hardeman, the leading rusher, is gone, there is plenty of yardage in Larry Collins, who netted 1,451 and 17 touchdowns last year. Also back are the top receivers, Glenn Starks and David Hill, and All-Conference Tackles Johnny Martinez and Larry McFarland.
The Javelinas will field 10 experienced starters on defense, including Linebacker David Palmore, who led the team with 89 tackles, and Halfback Leonard Avery, who had seven interceptions.
Texas A&I won the NAIA title by defeating Henderson State 34-23, a pairing that could be repeated, since the Reddies are also well stocked with veteran talent. Last year's team finished 11-2 and won its second-straight Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship.
Offensively, Henderson State depends on a strong running attack led by speedy Joe Smith, who popped out of the I formation for 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns in 1974. Fourth-year Quarterback Terry Blaylock does not pass often, but when he does he completes well over half of them for an average 17-yard gain. His favorite target is Split End Larry Thompson, who lines up with such top blockers as Tackle Larry McAlister and Center Jim Morris.
The Reddies' defense was all but impregnable last season, at least until it faced A&I. Henderson State blanked five opponents and allowed only 186 yards and seven points a game. Six starters return, including Tackles John Gross and Lynn Young, End Rick Minter and Linebacker Jasper Benton.
Among the other NAIA and NCAA Division II teams expecting to do well this year are Elon, Grambling, Butler and Western Carolina.