Lou Holtz, who covers up the fact that he is a fine coach with a torrent of self-deprecating one-liners, surveyed the few survivors from his 11-1 and 9-2-1 teams of 1977 and '78 and launched into his act. "We ought to redshirt everybody," he said, "and give the coach a sabbatical. This year will be like changing jobs without moving your family. I know we will sell a lot of programs, though, because we will be unknown soldiers. I don't mind starting a season with unknowns. I just don't like finishing a season with a bunch of them."
Indeed, the Arkansas defense will be as inexperienced as any the Razorbacks have fielded in years. And worse, the quarterback candidates—1978 reserve Kevin Scanlon, who broke Joe Namath's passing records at Beaver Falls, Pa., and sophomore Tom Jones, Bert's brother—are both more talented at passing than rushing, and in the SWC a running quarterback is considered essential. "We'll just throw more," says Holtz. "Depending on how well the defense comes along, we will throw more anyway."
But not all is bleak. The offensive line returns intact and has depth. Tackle Greg Kolenda is a good bet to earn All-America honors, and lining up beside him will be Guard George Stewart, who could do the same. Though the pros took three top running backs from Holtz' two previous seasons at Arkansas, waiting in the wings are Thomas Brown and Roland Sales. Somehow Holtz was able to spirit Brown out of Montgomery, Ala. (No doubt he kept Bear Bryant diverted with one of his rapid-fire routines.) Sales was the sub who rushed for an Orange Bowl record of 205 yards two seasons ago when two starting running backs were suspended. Then last year Sales came off the bench to score Arkansas' only touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl. Mexican-born placekicker Ismael Ordonez led the SWC in scoring last fall, finishing ahead of the more heralded Russell Erxleben of Texas and Tony Franklin of Texas A&M.
Creampuff openers—Colorado State, Oklahoma State and Tulsa—give Arkansas a 3-0 record before it opens its conference schedule. Then the Hogs get Texas, Houston, SMU and Baylor at home. The Longhorns will be coming to Little Rock for the first time since 1971, which also happens to be the last time the Razorbacks defeated Texas.
The most encouraging development during last spring's drills was the emergence of Quarterback Jones, who enrolled at Arkansas in August 1978 only after LSU, for one, declined to offer him a grant-in-aid because—at 6'2", 162 pounds—he seemed too light for big-time football. As a freshman redshirt Jones served his time in the weight room and gained 24 pounds. It is said he has the best passing touch seen at Arkansas since Joe Ferguson left in 1972. By the midway point of spring practice, Holtz had become so enamoured of Jones that he told his staff not to discuss the lad with anybody. Then Holtz took off to address a Razorback Club meeting and blew it all with one of his one-liners. "Right now," he told the boosters, "Tom Jones is Bert's brother. By next year, Bert may be Tom's brother."
At the close of spring drills, Holtz was thumbing through a team brochure from 1977, and he came across a page on the defense. "There's nothing in here that indicates that Dan Hampton and Jimmy Walker would become All-Americas," he said. "Now, Danny Phillips is as quick as Walker, and Jim Elliott is as strong as Hampton. It's just that we're so young." Then Holtz served warning on the SWC by stealing a line from Darrell Royal: "Remember, if a dog's gonna bite, he'll do it as a pup."