The Wildcats are strong favorites to win the WAC title, and one of the principal reasons, other than Young's coaching, is Quarterback Bruce Hill, a senior who was seventh in the nation in total offense last year with 2,118 yards, and 13th in passing with 133 completions in 249 tries for 1,814 yards. Only two men who finished ahead of him in total offense, Gene Swick of Toledo and Mark Driscoll of Colorado State, are back this year. Hill and Driscoll will take turns showing their stuff on Nov. 15 when the Wildcats travel to Fort Collins, Colo.
Tucson is very big on statistics. The football-loving citizenry can give you chapter and verse on Hill and his teammates. Defensive Tackle Mike Dawson, a hometown hero, led the team in "big play" helmet decorations and is said to be coveted by NFL scouts. One NFL personnel director says, "if the draft were held tomorrow he would go in the first round." And Theopolis (T) Bell from Bakersfield, Calif. is, they say, the premier flanker in the nation, gaining 700 yards. Theopolis in Greek means city of God, which doesn't seem to fit either Bakersfield or Tucson, but Young, for whom Bell toils, thinks he is pretty good, if not godlike. "He is a great all-round competitor. Not only is he a great receiver but also he is our top returner on kickoffs and punts. He is very dependable and a fine competitor who is always on the field to win." Teaming with Bell will be senior Split End Scott Piper, who caught 46 passes last season, four of them for touchdowns.
Young has 13 returning starters, including Safety Dennis Anderson, who tied for fourth in the country in interceptions and led the team in fumble recoveries (he will also do the punting this season); Offensive Tackle Brian Murray, the team's best blocking lineman; and Center Bob Windisch, a tough two-year starter. Plus, according to Young, "the best depth ever at running back" and a good place-kicker, sophomore Lee Pistor.
Arizona State and its fine coach, Frank Kush, will not concede, of course, and the game between the two teams will be in Tempe, but even so it appears that Arizona will be in the Fiesta Bowl the day after Christmas.
Darrell Royal has an expression, "We're going to scratch where it itches." The big itch in Austin last season was passing, which accounted for only 12.4%, of the Longhorns' offense and most of the aggravation. Less than 45 yards a game is bad even by Texas wishbone standards. Last year the opportunities were there but the material was not, the Longhorns slipping to an 8-3 record, second place in the Southwest Conference and a 27-3 loss to Auburn in the Gator Bowl. Though the team had the league's best total-yardage figures, those rabid, two-fingered Texas fans are pleading for more throwing.
Even so, Royal remains skeptical. "I don't think the varied attack is the answer to everything," he says. In the last seven years of wishboning, the Longhorns have lost only four conference games, but two of those occurred last year. Nevertheless, with Earl Campbell returning at fullback after rushing for 928 yards as a freshman, Royal does not want to shake things up too much.
Still, to upgrade the air attack, he has hired pass-minded Don Breaux, formerly of Florida State, Arkansas and Florida. In another move, Royal has shifted Alfred Jackson from the defensive secondary to split end. Jackson is a 9.5 sprinter with good hands, and as Breaux says, "If you want to mount a passing attack you must have a split receiver who can get open to catch the ball and then do something about running with it."
Also in the name of more passing, Tight End Tommy Ingram, a starter for two years and an excellent blocker, might have to give way to either Joe Samford or Randy Gerdes, both juniors and better receivers.
To make all this work, senior Quarterback Marty Akins must improve on last year's 19 for 47 statistics. Royal excuses the mediocre average, admitting that Akins' protection and receivers could have been better, and suggests Akins is on the verge of his best season. As a sophomore, he was 35 for 70 and should be at least as prolific and proficient this year. Mike Presley, last year's backup, has eschewed football in favor of studies, so Royal is forced to look hopefully to freshmen Ted Constanzo and Charles Vaclavik for support.