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Oregon and Oregon State ended 1983 with a memorable 0-0 tie. The Ducks lost their best defender, linebacker Jerry Mikels, to academics, but they're better off than the Beavers. State's top three quarterbacks in the spring game were: one for three; four for 10 (sacked twice); one for four, with one interception. And that's against the conference's worst pass defense.
Two years ago the Nevada, Las Vegas Board of Regents was on the verge of dropping the school's debtridden football program, but a last-ditch appeal led by athletic director Brad Rothermel changed the board's mind. This year the Rebels should win the PCAA on the arm of Randall (brother of Sam Bam) Cunningham, the No. 6 passer and No. 8 punter in the nation in 1983. Damon (brother of Marcus) Allen passed for four TDs and ran for five in leading Fullerton to the 1983 conference crown. Allen, who missed part of spring practice because he was pitching for the Titans' NCAA championship baseball team—the Tigers drafted him in the seventh round—is one of 16 returning starters.
Last year Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney worried about starting his son, Kevin, a freshman, at quarterback. Kevin came through with 2,359 yards and 16 TDs. His receivers are Dave Williams, who averaged 20 yards on 21 catches, and Larry Willis, who led the PCAA with 63 grabs.
At San Jose State, former defensive coordinator Claude Gilbert is the new coach, replacing Jack Elway, who has moved to Stanford. The Spartans will continue to put the ball in the air, but their leading stars are the 21-sack combination of end Terry McDonald and noseman Armahn Williams.
Last year's loss is this year's gain for Pacific. In '83 tight end Tony Camp and quarterback Paul Berner went down early with injuries. Both are back with an extra year of eligibility. New Mexico State coach Fred Zechman is planning for the future. He started 12 freshmen last season and has signed the state's top schoolboy quarterback, Jim Miller.
Mike Sheppard, offensive coordinator at Kansas last year, takes over at Long Beach State, where in 1982 he coached quarterback Todd Dillon to the national total offense title. Dillon's gone, and Sheppard must start from scratch. Utah State, next to last in the PCAA in total offense and total defense in '83, has two outstanding defenders—linebacker Hal Garner and tackle Mike Hamby—but little else.
Over the past four years Georgia has gone 43-4-1, but the Bulldogs are headed for tougher times. All-Americas Terry Hoage and Freddie Gilbert are gone. The leading rusher, Keith Montgomery, flunked out. And Alabama is back on the schedule. Tennessee seemed primed for a splendid '84. But in spring practice fullback Sam Henderson badly injured his left knee, and in June quarterback Alan Cockrell signed as an outfielder with the San Francisco Giants. Still, the Vols have speed in all-SEC halfback Johnnie Jones (1,116 yards in nine games last year) and a solid defense. Seven wins are possible.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard, the inventor of the wishbone, is all but scrapping his brainchild and installing the I. That's partly because he lost his mainstay, quarterback John Bond. The Bulldogs also lost all their linebackers and defensive backs. A rebuilding year for sure.