3USC will be difficult to score against. Three-time All-America Richard Wood is gone, but the linebackers will be strong, especially Kevin Bruce, who led the team in tackles in 1974, and experienced sophomore Mario Celotto. Of the 22 probable starters 17 are Californians, but the best defensive lineman is from Woody Hayes' turf, Cleveland. His name is Gary Jeter, and for a 237-pound tackle, he can fly. Sophomore Dennis Thurman replaces Marvin Cobb at safety, and he will have proved talent there with him in Cornerbacks Danny Reece, Ron Bush and Rover Doug Hogan.
Without Davis, Haden and Receiver Johnny McKay, it does not seem likely that USC could be as explosive as in 1974. The offense is formidable, nevertheless, with a potential baby-elephant backfield of Quarterback Vince Evans, who is 6'2", 205 pounds and a powerful runner; 209-pound Fullback Dave Farmer and 215-pound Tailback Ricky Bell. If two sophomores with big reputations, Dwight Ford and JC-transfer Lynn Cain, do well, McKay might let them share the tailback spot and return Bell to fullback, a position he would share with Farmer and Mosi Tatupu, a 225-pound Hawaiian. When Haden was resting last year, North Carolinian Evans showed himself to be a good passer and he will have some handy targets, notably Flanker Shelton Diggs, who caught the two-point conversion pass in the Rose Bowl, and Split End Ken Randle, who ran a 45.1 quarter last spring. The offensive line will be anchored by junior Marvin Powell, also from North Carolina.
"We're a year away from greatness," says McKay, "but the Trojans will survive in '75." On almost any other campus such survival would be called prosperity.
For the last three seasons Michigan's record has been a glittering 30-2-1. In that period it shared three Big Ten titles, didn't finish lower than sixth in the national rankings—and didn't go to a single Rose Bowl game. This year, however, the Wolverines will almost assuredly find themselves in a postseason game somewhere if only because a proposed revision in the Rose Bowl contract may allow the Big Ten runner-up to accept an invitation to another bowl, if offered. But Coach Bo Schembechler has his sights aimed higher even if, as is the case with most coaches, he has found something to worry about.
"This year our offense may be so weak we could field a pro defense and still be in trouble," Bo says. Well, chances are Michigan will indeed field a pro defense. Through his six seasons at Ann Arbor, Michigan ranks first among major schools in fewest points yielded. During that time the Wolverines have blanked opponents 18 times and given up no more than seven points another 24 times. With that kind of defense, you only need a Pop Warner offense.
Which is exactly what worries Bo—the offense may be puny. "In some areas," he says, "we may need immediate help from our freshmen." Bo's two best prospects are Running Back Harlan Huckleby (6' 1�", 195 pounds) from Detroit and Russell Davis (6'2", 215 pounds) from Wood-bridge, Va. Scoring 26 touchdowns his senior year, Davis won raves as "the best high school runner since O. J. Simpson." Schembechler is wary of such praise.
"Davis hasn't played fullback," he says. "I always worry about these kids with superstar labels. The guy I like is Huckleby. He can run."
Running is the tactic Schembechler prefers almost to the exclusion of the forward pass, and so the Wolverines again may be expected to plow along with a lot of quarterback options and tailbacks skirting end. Michigan rushed for an average of 307 yards a game last season as Gordon Bell and Rob Lytle, both returning, combined for 1,850 yards.
At quarterback, senior Mark Elzinga (6'3", 198 pounds) inherits the job Dennis Franklin performed so well for three seasons. Split End Jim Smith, one of the Big Ten's best, has been shifted to wingback.