Knapple's running ability may be sorely tested this fall, because along with the departures of Tailback Tony Reed and Fullback Jim Kelleher went 1,825 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns.
But the men Mallory starts in their places—junior college transfer Mike Kozlowski or freshman Jeff Hornberger at tailback and James Mayberry or Mike Holmes at fullback—will operate behind a Rocky Mountain-sized line. From left tackle to right it will consist of Matt Miller (6'6", 272), Steve Hakes (6'2", 245), Leon White (6'3", 278), Dave Griffin (6'3", 250) and George Osborne (6'5", 241).
There are some Buffaloes to beware of on defense, too. Tackle Ruben Vaughan (6'3", 261) and Middle Guard Laval Short (6'2", 246) anchor the line. Odis McKinney heads a veteran secondary that intercepted 19 passes last season and should be even stronger with the return of Safety Tom Tesone, who sat out 1976 with a knee injury.
The Buffaloes won't be stampeding to the Big Eight title, however. They figure to start out 6-0, but then they play both Nebraska and Oklahoma on the road. The Cornhuskers have beaten them nine straight and the Sooners are not likely to give up 42 points in Norman.
Last year's 9-2-1 UCLA team, Coach Terry Donahue's first, averaged only 13.6 passes a game. The Bruins would like to increase that to about 20. "We're not going to become a passing team," says Donahue, "but we need to become a balanced team." The fact that only one offensive line starter is back could have something to do with Donahue's intention. He does have good receivers but now that Jeff Dankworth has graduated to UCLA law school, the quarterbacking is, well, up in the air. The leading candidates are junior Steve Bukich, son of ex-pro Rudy, and sophomore Rick Bashore, who finished spring practice ranked "dead even" with Bukich.
But if the offensive line jells quickly—Tackle Gus Cop-pens is back and Bruce Davis has been switched from the defensive unit—the Bruins will not have to worry about having nothing to do on or about New Year's Day. One thing in Donahue's favor is that UCLA doesn't leap into the Rose Bowl race until the fifth game. Moreover, the Bruins have not exactly been stripped clean of runners. Junior Halfback Theotis (Big Foot) Brown wears a size 15 triple-E shoe, which last season helped his 218 pounds around and over opposing tacklers for 1,092 yards, third best in school history. Alongside Brown in the veer alignment will be freshman Freeman McNeil or 173-pound Olympian James Owens (sixth in the high hurdles at Montreal).
The defense should be good enough to forestall disaster so long as it can keep up with the catalogue of offenses it will be seeing early in the season. UCLA opens at Houston, which operates out of the veer; five days later it entertains Kansas, a wishbone team; then comes Minnesota with the I formation and, finally, Iowa, which lines up in the wing T. Playing a key role in containing this array of formations will be Jerry Robinson, a split end two years ago who transformed himself into a quick, hard-hitting 208-pound inside linebacker for the Bruins' 3-4-4 defense. Another defensive stalwart is 240-pound Tackle Manu Tuiasosopo. The tough defensive backfield is led by Cornerback Levi Armstrong and Free Safety Pat Schmidt. Donahue hopes they, plus Linebackers Raymond Bell and Frank Stephens and Nose Guard Steve Tetrick, "will form the nucleus of a unit that will carry us until the offense gains experience."
The kicking game is in fine shape again this year. Frank Corral averaged more than 44 yards a punt in '76 to finish sixth in the country and also kicked a school-record 55-yard field goal against Oregon.
There is yet one more reason why UCLA should be a strong second-half team: Donahue's staff did an excellent job of recruiting, most notably McNeil from L.A., Defensive Tackle Billy Don Jackson from Texas and Flanker Fred Brockington from Michigan. If Donahue can get his youngsters to peak when they did last year, the Nov. 25 date with USC figures to fall at just about the right time.