Bryant's main worry is replacing the defensive line, which was totaled by graduation. But in 6'5", 250-pound Marty Lyons, 6'4", 260-pound William Davis and 6'3", 240-pound Calvin Parker, among others, he has imposing people. They can count on help from a veteran secondary that yielded only 85 completions and five TDs in 1976, and three seasoned linebackers, notably Barry Krause, who was named MVP in the Liberty Bowl. Folks call him another LeRoy Jordan, a name not tossed around casually in Tuscaloosa.
Among the Tide's first five foes are Big Eight co-champ Nebraska, SEC champ Georgia and Pac-8 champ USC. But Nebraska and Georgia are undergoing face-lifts and USC is the fifth game of the season, so the Tide's young defensive line should have jelled. Alabama might stumble once, maybe twice—but no more.
So why is the Bear grumbling? Out of habit. The last time Bryant predicted Alabama would be tough was in 1957. He was coaching Texas A&M that year.
Sadly, the school that fielded such exotically named individuals as Aramis Dandoy, Greenville Archer Lansdell III and Orenthal James Simpson has lost Cornerback Drungo Hazewood to pro baseball. USC also has lost 15 men to pro football, including Tailback Ricky Bell, runner-up for the Heisman Trophy; Quarterback Vince Evans, Rose Bowl MVP; and two All-America linemen, Gary Jeter and Marvin Powell. So much for the minuses. The good news is that USC should go to the Rose Bowl again and might be stronger at tailback and quarterback.
Rob Hertel, a second baseman who hit .329 for the Trojan baseball team, is sticking around for his senior season at quarterback instead of following Hazewood's example. Hertel was the best backup signal-caller in the Pac-8 last year, having completed 65% of his passes for 452 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Tailback Charles White (5.5 yards a carry and 10 TDs rushing in 1976), a record-setting high school hurdler, is "one of the best breakaway threats I've ever seen," says second-year Trojan Coach John Robinson. USC has had two Heisman winners ( Simpson and Mike Garrett) and three strong Heisman contenders (Bell, Anthony Davis, Jon Arnett) at tailback, but White could turn out to be at least as good. Complementing him at fullback is Mosi Tatupu, who, says Robinson, "is about as easy to tackle as a Coke machine." Paving their way is a young, powerful offensive line. Soph Tackle Anthony Munoz goes 6'6", 270 pounds, and Robinson says 6'6" junior Guard Pat Howell "is the best lineman on our team right now, a potential All-America." The coach also rates Wide Receiver Randy Simmrin and Tight End William Gay as All-America candidates.
With only four starters back, the Trojan defense doesn't figure to be as overwhelming as the offense, but most coaches would gladly trade for it, particularly when they look at the charts and discover that 13 lettermen are knocking each other around for starting berths. All-America Safety Dennis Thurman and Rover Mike Carey, who suffered from Hodgkins' disease last fall, are the mainstays of the secondary. If there is a weakness, it might be the kicking game, where the Trojans must rely on inexperienced men. Certainly it isn't the schedule, which seems to have been tailor-made for a team going for the national championship. USC plays Missouri, Alabama, Notre Dame and UCLA, but has a breather in between each big game.
USC was 11-1 last season, dropping its opener to Missouri. "We lost the national championship on Sept. 11," says Robinson. "Our kids come here to be national champions. We recognize now the importance of being really ready for the first game." This season USC figures to be really ready for everyone. Including the Big Ten champion on Jan. 2.
7 Ohio State