This is Jackie Sherrill's third year as the head man at Pittsburgh, and he's still tinkering. For instance, the Panthers spent most of spring practice trying to master the complexities of a Dallas Cowboy-style, multiple-set offense and a "rushing" (rather than "reading") defense. Rick Trocano, who quarterbacked Pitt to an 8-4 record in '78, again will direct the offense, but pushing him for the job is freshman Dan Marino, who is a better passer. The running backs are holdover Fred Jacobs and newcomer Randy McMillan, who led all junior college rushers last year by gaining 1,589 yards for Harford (Md.) J.C.
The Panther defense is anchored by two-time All-America End Hugh Green. After Green was timed in 4.5 for the 40-yard dash, Sherrill thought briefly of moving him to linebacker, but for this season at least Green remains at end, where he could become the first Panther to win the Outland Award.
All hopes Syracuse (3-8) might have had of challenging Penn State and Pitt for the Lambert Trophy last year were dashed on the seventh play of the season when Quarterback Bill Hurley cracked his ribs. But because of that injury, Hurley has been granted an extra year of eligibility, and Orange hopes are even higher for '79. In addition to Hurley's unexpected presence, Syracuse has running backs Art Monk, an All-East pick, and Joe Morris in the backfield, which should be one of the most explosive in the nation. Morris, a sophomore, is the third rusher in Syracuse history—All-Pros Floyd Little and Larry Csonka were the others—to gain 1,000 yards for the Orangemen in his first season. So much for the good news. Morris and his teammates will see precious little of Syracuse in 1979. While work progresses on a new domed stadium, they will play their "home" games at The Meadowlands (220 miles away), at Rich Stadium in Buffalo (120 miles distant) and at Cornell (60 miles off).
A mere 40 miles from Syracuse is Colgate, but the 1979 Red Raiders are going to be a long way from their 10-1 predecessors of 1977, even if they did upset Rutgers in the final game of 1978. Despite the loss, Rutgers went to the Garden State Bowl, the first postseason game in its 109-year football history, on the basis of a 9-2 record. However, this year the Scarlet Knights face a tougher slate of opponents and must replace Glen Kehlar, their leading rusher in '78.
The mainstay of East Carolina's 9-3 Independence Bowl-winning team was the defense. It ranked No. 2 in the nation and came to be nicknamed the Swarm. The Swarm is shy several very busy bees from 1978, but opponents will still feel the sting of Linebacker Mike Brewington, whom Coach Pat Dye rates as one of the best anywhere. The Pirates' offense is almost unchanged, with Quarterback Leander Green running a wishbone that features Halfback Anthony Collins and Theodore Sutton at fullback. East Carolina wants to prove it's ready for the big time, and this is the year to do it—the Pirate schedule includes six of North Carolina's Division I-A teams.
Jerry Moore, for six years the receiver coach at Nebraska, has inherited the flourishing program that Hayden Fry built at North Texas State. Last year's 9-2 squad returns virtually intact, but will have a new look. Moore has installed an I offense built around senior Quarterback Jordan Case, who was 12th in the nation in '78 with a 58.7 completion percentage, and Running Back Bernard Jackson, whose total of 1,453 yards rushing was surpassed only by Billy Sims and Charles White among current collegians. Although the Mean Green has won three-quarters of its games the past four years, it can't help but feel like the odd men out in SWC country. North Texas has not been invited to a bowl game since 1959.
At Miami (6-5), Howard Schnellenberger, the former offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins and coach of the Baltimore Colts, has taken over from Lou Saban, becoming the seventh Hurricane coach in a decade. No. 7 could turn out to be lucky for Miami because Schnellenberger has 33 lettermen to work with, plus nine sophomores whom Saban had kept hidden under redshirts. Sophomore Quarterback Mike Rodrigue, coached by ex-Dolphin Earl Morrall, will lead the offense, while his receivers, Pat Walker and Jim Joiner, get to study under ex-Dolphin punter and receiver Larry Seiple. Still, the Hurricanes could get blown apart by a schedule that includes Penn State, Alabama and Notre Dame. Their best chance for an upset will be against Florida State on Sept. 22.
Saban has taken on another rebuilding job at Army (4-6-1), where only eight starters are back. The Cadet offense can rely on the strong arm of Quarterback Earle Mulrane and a strong corps of running backs but must build a line for them to work behind. At Air Force (3-8), Ken Hatfield moves up from offensive coordinator to head coach just in time to encounter the Falcons' toughest schedule ever. Even tougher to face is the fact that only 13 starters are around from last season. Hatfield is counting on senior Quarterback Dave Zeibart to stave off disaster. Perhaps next year when the Falcons join the Western Athletic Conference, life will be easier.
Despite a larger-than-life reputation to live up to, thanks to last season's 9-3 record, Navy could in fact surprise again. Bob Powers will step in for Quarterback Bob Leszczynski, and he will be protected by the biggest line in Middie history. It averages 6'4" and 245 pounds. Seven defensive starters, including End Charlie (Thunder) Thornton, are on hand.
Louisville faces a stiffer lineup of opponents but with a team that is improved enough to at least match last year's 7-4 performance. Seventeen starters—All-America Linebacker Otis Wilson most notable among them—who helped to achieve that record will be augmented by 24 sophomores who were redshirted, plus Fullback Mike Sims, a transfer from Florida State. Stu Stram, Hank's kid, will be in his fourth year as quarterback.