Defensively, Maryland is in the same position: few returning starters but a ton of talent. Claiborne expects much from Jim Brechbriel, Maryland's leading pass interceptor, and LeRoy Hughes, a 5'8" end who rams into pass pockets like a bowling ball. Tackle Ralph Fisher has All-Conference capability, but the man he replaces, Randy White, was everybody's All-America. The Terps may lose a game ( Penn State) or two ( Tennessee), but probably no more.
UCLA has fielded some fine quarterbacks, notably Bill Kilmer, Bob Waterfield and 1967 Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban. Now the publicity drums are beating loudly for senior John Sciarra (pronounced sharah). Second-year Head Coach Dick Vermeil calls Sciarra "the premier quarterback in the nation," a "really good college passer" and other predictable things.
"He does it all," said Vermeil during spring practice. "He's throwing better today than he did before he got hurt last year. As a passer he's probably not a Pat Haden, but put everything he can do together and there isn't anyone around like him."
Everything he can do includes play baseball, rush for big yardage and run the veer offense. Against Tennessee last season he accumulated 390 yards total offense, and he was averaging 176 when he broke the fibula in his right leg in the seventh game. Sciarra seemed well recovered in the final scrimmage last spring, when he hit eight of 13 passes for 130 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 57 yards in five carries.
But for Sciarra to become UCLA's second Heisman quarterback, the Bruins must overcome defensive problems and finish high in the polls. The unproven defensive unit is a nagging worry for Vermeil because UCLA faces such powerhouses as Tennessee, Ohio State and, as always, USC. In finishing 6-3-2 last year, the Bruins gave up 15.8 points a game, second-best in the league behind USC. "We were not particularly pleased with our defense," says Vermeil. "In the long run we'll be better." It won't be easy. UCLA must replace 10 starters and get a full year's duty from big, quick Nose Guard Cliff Frazier. The 6'5�", 254-pound former tackle is a theater-arts major from Baldwin, Mo. who plays piano, drums, organ and guitar—and sings. But he hit a discordant note in the opener last season, hurting his left ankle and, later on, his right ankle and right knee. The only fulltime starter returning is Linebacker Dale Curry, the team's second-leading tackier last season. The secondary is callow if not shallow, although Free Safety Pat Schmidt looked good in the spring.
Sciarra has better troops on offense, especially Split End Norm Andersen, Running Back Wendell Tyler, Tight End Rick Walker and Right Guard Randy Cross. Andersen's 27 catches for 480 yards won him a place on the coaches' all-league team, and Tyler is the Bruins' leading returning rusher, with 544 yards despite missing the last two games. UCLA lost a fine prospect when a much-sought-after high school star, Running Back Myron White, signed a baseball contract with the Dodgers. However, Vermeil and his staff did a good job of mining the state's talent-rich high schools and junior colleges, and some of those people will no doubt be starting by midseason.
Johnny Majors lacks a quarterback, has an inexperienced offensive line and two new headaches on his schedule—Oklahoma and Georgia—but his main concern is his seniors. There aren't enough of them. Of the dozen starters returning this fall, only three are seniors. That worries Majors.
"A team must have those good seniors to provide leadership," he says. "The big question is whether anyone's going to step forward and do it."