True enough, college football has undergone substantial changes in recent years. The return to two platoons in 1965, the first-down time-out introduced in 1968 ("We're playing five quarters," says Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles), the 11th game added in 1970 and freshman eligibility in 1972—all of these have given backs more opportunities to carry the ball. And when a well-drilled runner in a ground-oriented offense like the veer, the wishbone or the I is carrying the ball 25 to 35 times a game on a fast artificial track, no record is safe.
"I would imagine today's backs are better," says former Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney. "For one thing, they get a better start in life physically. They don't have polio, scarlet fever or whooping cough. They have vitamins. And today's kids don't work after school."
Alabama's Bear Bryant contends that "The greatest backs 10, 20, 30 years ago would be great now, too." Harmon, Michigan's Heisman Trophy winner in 1940, agrees. "A thousand yards would have been nothing for Red Grange, Glenn Davis or Jay Berwanger. Give a guy like Grange the football 40 times under two-platoon rules and he'd kill you. He might be running yet."
Yesterday or today, a player's best public-relations man is his coach.
" Archie Griffin is the greatest running back I've ever seen in college," declares Woody Hayes, who has coached, among others, Hopalong Cassady, Vic Janowicz and John Brockington. "In fact, I've never seen a greater football player."
Pitt Coach Johnny Majors has. He calls Dorsett "the best college running back I've ever seen," while Cal's Mike White says that Muncie "has the ability and balance of Jim Brown." Barry Switzer of Oklahoma is not about to be one-upped. "There isn't a better all-round player in the country," he says of silver-slippered Joe Washington. And here comes Kentucky's Fran Curci, who had Chuck Foreman at Miami, with the news that baldheaded Sonny Collins is "probably the best pure runner I've coached." Tony Galbreath? Why, only "the best all-round back" Al Onofrio has had in his 18 years at Missouri.
The list goes on. Accolades pour in like the yardage that inspires them. But while many pro scouts agree that the overall quality of today's backs is the best they have seen, they are not as free with their praise for individuals. When one of them calls Muncie a "bigger version of O.J." he is assuredly not saying Muncie is better, is he? "Oh, I wouldn't put anybody in that class," he says. The runners the pros like best, future O.J.s or not, are:
Chuck Muncie, California. 6'3", 220. Pro-set tailback. Averaging 129 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry with a single-game high of 208. Combines outside speed, inside power and pass-catching ability better than any other back. Although his dedication was once suspect, that is no longer a problem.
Archie Griffin, Ohio State. 5'8", 182. I tailback. Averaging 131 and 5.8 with a 160 high. His 31 consecutive 100-yard games make him the most consistent back in history. Quick, powerful and a good blocker but would benefit from more size and breakaway speed. Glamour name could appeal to a team seeking a gate attraction.
Joe Washington, Oklahoma. 5'10", 185. Wishbone halfback. Averaging 84 and 5.2 with a 166 high. Disappointing senior season because of foot injury. Bad habit of running out of bounds when he should try to turn upfield. Although small, is fast, very elusive and a game breaker.