The team's principal strength is its defense, which has six starters returning. All-America candidates Bo Busby at safety and Johnnie Meadors at end are two prime reasons why Broyles says, "If we can score, we can have a great year." Last season the Razorbacks led the conference in fewest points allowed, a protective cushion Broyles would love to have again for his inexperienced offense.
Most of the offensive talent is in the line, which is bolstered by three returning starters. One of them, R. C. Thielemann, switches from guard to center to make room for 270-pound Steve Heim. The change suits Thielemann, who prefers blocking a nose guard head on to chasing down a linebacker. "I like to do my talking with my headgear," he says.
Arkansas also has some fine running backs, notably versatile Jerry Eckwood. Before suffering a knee injury last season, Eckwood gained 100 yards or more in five straight games. Sophomore Ron Calcagni has the edge at quarterback, but much is expected of freshman Houston Nutt, whom Bear Bryant tried hard to recruit for Alabama. The schedule is ideal for developing young quarterbacks: four home games and two open dates before the first road contest. By then the resurgent Razorbacks should be at their competitive best.
While visiting a hospital in Knoxville last winter, Coach Bill Battle came upon a small boy bedridden with mononucleosis. "Hope you get better real soon," he said. "I hope you do, too," the boy replied.
At times last season the Vols seemed to have mono themselves. Following seasons of 11-1, 10-2, 10-2, 8-4 and 7-3-2, they fell to 7-5 and missed a bowl bid for the first time since 1964. The defense yielded 193 points in 12 games, and when it did stop teams like Vanderbilt and North Texas State, the sometimes explosive offense sputtered and the Vols lost. O blamed D and D badmouthed O. After a 23-6 drubbing by Mississippi, Battle summoned his players to clear the air. "We felt like talking, but nobody could think of anything to say," says End Larry Seivers. "The meeting ended like the whole season—strange."
This year Vol fans, many of whom moor their orange-and-white houseboats in the Tennessee River alongside Neyland Stadium, will see some changes. For one, a new upper deck will add 9,600 seats to the stadium. For another, to pump life into the Vols' predictable attack, Battle has hired Dal Shealy, the triple-option genius who helped Carson-Newman gain its high NAIA rankings and engineered Baylor's offense when the Bears won the Southwest Conference in 1974. In Shealy's "5-5" attack the line tries to drive five yards downfield with backs deployed, ready to scoot five yards after them once the quarterback, reading defenses, decides who gets the ball. "We may not always make the five yards," concedes Assistant Coach Fred Malone. "But we're gonna be pretty berserk down there if we don't." The pressure is on Randy Wallace, a 50% passer who netted 1,318 yards in the air. He will operate behind a veteran line that features Guard Mickey Marvin; his prime target will be Seivers, who beat a lot of double coverage in 1975 with his eye-popping cuts and 34-inch vertical spring to lead the SEC with 41 catches for 840 yards. To complement the passing game Tennessee has able ball carriers in Kelsey Finch, Frank Foxx, Bobby Emmons and Mike Gayles. Stanley Morgan, an All-SEC tailback in 1974, looks even better now at wingback.
On defense, Russ Williams, once a linebacker, and Jeff Moore, formerly an end, have switched to strong safety and cornerback to buttress the secondary. Two sets of tackles and ends will alternate; Jim Woofter and Danny Jenkins will supply the lightning, and 275-pound Jesse Turnbow, 250-pound Glenn Tucker and strongman David Barron the thunder. Craig Puki moves from running back to linebacker, joining Andy Spiva, a menace afield.
Tennessee runs into Alabama and Florida back-to-back on Oct. 16 and 23. That's when Battle will know if things have gotten better. Or, possibly, worse.